Pack­ers’ Tay­lor, fierce full­back, dies at 83

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page - Ge­naro C. Ar­mas AP SPORTS WRITER

Jim Tay­lor, the fe­ro­cious Hall of Fame full­back who em­bod­ied the Green Bay Pack­ers’ un­stop­pable ground game dur­ing the Vince Lom­bardi era and helped the team win four NFL ti­tles and the first Su­per Bowl, died Satur­day. He was 83.

He died un­ex­pect­edly at a hos­pi­tal in his home­town of Ba­ton Rouge, Lou­i­si­ana, the team said.

Tay­lor played on the great Packer teams and was the league’s MVP in 1962. He scored the first rush­ing touch­down in Su­per Bowl his­tory and was voted into the Hall in 1976.

Tay­lor spent 10 sea­sons in the NFL af­ter be­ing drafted in the sec­ond round out of LSU in 1958. He was part of a back­field that fea­tured Paul Hor­nung and be­gan to thrive when Lom­bardi took over in 1959.

“He was a gritty, clas­sic player on the Lom­bardi teams and a key fig­ure of those great cham­pi­onship runs,” Pack­ers Pres­i­dent Mark Mur­phy said.

“One of the best run­ners of his era, he later was greatly ap­pre­ci­ated by mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions of Pack­ers fans dur­ing his many re­turns to Lam­beau Field with his fel­low alumni.”

Lom­bardi de­vised the Pack­ers’ “Sweep,” which fea­tured pulling guards Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston clear­ing the path for Tay­lor or Hor­nung run­ning around the end. The 6-foot, 216pound Tay­lor best ful­filled the play’s pun­ish­ing ef­fec­tive­ness, a work­horse charg­ing for­ward no mat­ter the sur­face un­der­neath, drag­ging would-be tack­lers along.

“He taught me lots of char­ac­ter, and virtues, and prin­ci­ples,” Tay­lor said of Lom­bardi, with whom he oc­ca­sion­ally feuded, in a 2001 in­ter­view with the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame. “He es­tab­lished a cal­iber of foot­ball that he felt like would be cham­pi­onship.”

In 1960, Tay­lor ran for 1,101 yards, top­ping Tony Canadeo’s fran­chise mark of 1,052 yards in 1949.

It was just the be­gin­ning. He Tay­lor ran for five straight 1,000-yard sea­sons from 1960-64 and led the Pack­ers seven con­sec­u­tive times in rush­ing.

In 1961, Tay­lor ran for 1,307 yards and scored an NFL-best 15 touch­downs as the Pack­ers rolled to a 37-0 vic­tory over the Gi­ants in Green Bay for Lom­bardi’s first ti­tle.

The next year would be Tay­lor’s finest. He ran for 1,474 yards and 19 TDs in 14 games, and scored the only touch­down in the Pack­ers’ 16-7 vic­tory over the New York Gi­ants for the sec­ond of his four ti­tles.

Tay­lor said that sea­son, when Green Bay fin­ished 13-1 in the reg­u­lar sea­son, stood out for him.

“Be­ing voted the MVP of the league in 1962 is some­thing that I look back and cher­ish,” Tay­lor said. “I felt like I ac­com­plished and achieved my goal.”

The 1962 ti­tle game pit­ted the Pack­ers and the Gi­ants, this time in New York, and was played in 40 mph winds and 13de­gree tem­per­a­tures at Yan­kee Sta­dium.

Tay­lor was at his tough­est, pick­ing up 85 yards on 31 car­ries against the vaunted Gi­ants de­fense fea­tur­ing linebacker Sam Huff. Tay­lor sus­tained a gash to his el­bow that re­quired seven stitches at half­time and cut his tongue dur­ing the game.

“If Tay­lor went up to get a pro­gram, Huff was sup­posed to hit him. Wher­ever Tay­lor went, Huff went with him,” Kramer told The As­so­ci­ated Press in 2008. “I re­mem­ber sit­ting next to Jimmy on the way home and he had his top­coat on. He never took it off. He had it over his shoul­der and the guy was shiv­er­ing al­most all the way home. He just got the hell beat out of him that day.”

That game was one of sev­eral that helped launch pro foot­ball into the tele­vi­sion era, and Tay­lor’s con­tri­bu­tions to the Pack­ers en­dured.

Tay­lor, also a mem­ber of the 1965 ti­tle team, fin­ished his Pack­ers ca­reer af­ter the 1966 sea­son as the fran­chise’s all­time lead­ing rusher and held sin­gle­sea­son marks for yards and touch­downs.

He also scored the Su­per Bowl’s first rush­ing touch­down when the Pack­ers de­feated the Kan­sas City Chiefs 35-10 in the in­au­gu­ral cham­pi­onship game be­tween the NFL and AFL.

But his yardage tailed off sharply in 1966 and he was openly re­sent­ful of the high salaries paid to new­com­ers Donny An­der­son and Jim Grabowski.

Tay­lor played his fi­nal sea­son with the ex­pan­sion New Or­leans Saints.

His 1,474-yard mark from 1962 stood for 41 years un­til Ah­man Green broke it in 2003. Green went on to break the fran­chise’s all-time rush­ing mark in 2009.

In col­lege, Tay­lor stayed home to at­tend LSU, where he let­tered in the 1956 and 1957 sea­sons.

He was a first-team All-Amer­i­can dur­ing his sec­ond sea­son, when he also be­came team­mates with Jimmy Can­non, who died last May.

Tay­lor led South­east­ern Con­fer­ence in scor­ing with 59 points in 1956.

“With the ball un­der his arm, Jimmy Tay­lor is the finest player I have ever seen,” then-LSU coach Paul Di­et­zel said.

Tay­lor re­tired in Ba­ton Rouge and re­mained close to the LSU foot­ball pro­gram. He was in­ducted in the Lou­i­si­ana Sports Hall of Fame in 1974.

Tay­lor was of­ten com­pared to his con­tem­po­rary, Cleve­land’s Jim Brown, but Lom­bardi had dif­fer­ent views on two of the most pun­ish­ing run­ning backs in the league at the time.

“Jim Brown will give you that leg (to tackle) and then take it away from you,” Lom­bardi said.

“Jim Tay­lor will give it to you and then ram it through your chest.”

DAR­RYL NORENBERG-USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Green Bay Pack­ers run­ning back Jim Tay­lor (31) car­ries the ball against the Los An­ge­les Rams at the Los An­ge­les Memo­rial Col­i­seum.

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