Born in Williamsburg, Va., Lawrence Taylor took his late-blooming but immense football talents to Chapel Hill, N.C. and became one of the greatest college football players in history while suiting up for the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Taylor laid the foundation for his legendary career in college. What he did for the New York Giants in the NFL solidified that beyond compare.
LT's impact was immediate as he is the only player in NFL history to win Defensive Rookie of the Year and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in his first season in the league. The defensive force won an NFL record three Defensive Player of the Year awards and won the NFL MVP Award in 1986, joining Alan Page, who accomplished the feat in 1971. No defensive player has done it since.
Taylor, who will be signing autographs at The National in Atlantic City, was named a Pro Bowler in each of his 10 seasons in the league, first-team All-Pro in eight and second team in the other two.
A two-time Super Bowl champion with the Giants Big Blue Wrecking Crew, Taylor solidified his status as a champion and a winner at the highest level. A member of the 1980s NFL All Decade Team and the NFL 75th Anniversary Team, as well as the NFL's 100th Anniversary Team, Taylor is considered the single greatest defensive football player in league history.
LT revolutionized the way the linebacker position was played. He was solely responsible for a complete change in defensive game plans, as well as offensive game plans, and his impact is still felt in today's game.
In this exclusive interview with Tony Reid, LT talks about seeing his rookie cards, his beautiful, bold signature, what his kids ended up doing with his cards and much more.
Being the NFL’s defensive GOAT, you’ve signed your signature countless times over the years. Do you remember the very first time you were asked for your autograph?
It was probably in my all-star game in high school. At the University of North Carolina I had to do a lot of them. I can’t remember the first one but I can remember the last one, it was about two minutes ago! I sign so many and I wonder every day when I’m out or when I go to a show, who in the hell doesn’t have my autograph by now? (Laughs) Who doesn’t? I sign so many of those [SOBs], come on now!
You have one of the nicest signatures in sports. How much pride do you take in your signature?
I worked on it. I used to write my full name and that was too long and taxing. I developed a signature that I liked. Once you see the ‘L’ and the ‘T’ you know who it is. Now, I don’t do all of them like that. Some of the autographs are bullshit. I’m scribbling. When I do shows or do some for people that appreciate it, I can write a nice one.
When players first see themselves on a trading card for the first time it’s a special moment. Do you remember the first time you saw yourself on a card, whether it be your classic 1982 Topps RC or another card?
That was my first year. That year I saw myself on a card. Back in those days we were getting cards and they came with bubble gum. I used to take the cards, throw them away and eat the bubble gum. It’s amazing how the card industry has grown and matured. It’s amazing. People are not as smart as you think they are.
I looked back through every one of your Topps cards and it wasn’t until 1992 that we saw you in action. Every card had you on the sideline, standing around, etc. Being the most ferocious defensive player ever, how ironic is it that it took until your 10th year in the league to see you on the field on cardboard?
That’s amazing. You would know that, I would not. It’s great for your legacy. Ten or 20 years from now, someone will be on the "Price is Right" or something and they will mention the price of an L.T. rookie card is now $300.
I collect rookie cards and, of course, I have a few of your 1982 Topps rookie cards. That is a pretty iconic one.
I have a couple of them, too. I have a lot of rookie cards. I give them to my kids. They scratch out my name and put Ace of Diamonds or Ace of Spades and stuff like that. They make playing cards out of them.
Being the greatest defensive player in the history of football, your awards and accolades are never ending. Do you have a man cave where you have memorabilia displayed?
Of course I have a man cave. Most of my man cave consists of awards and trophies that I have from my time in the game. I have more stuff in the garage that has been packed away that I don’t even look at. I’m not a person who is into trinkets and awards and stuff like that. I do what I do because I do what I do. That’s the way I see it.
If you could give our readers a tour of the L.T. Man Cave, what would we see?
You would see all of my Super Bowl trophies. You would see my Player of the Year trophies, I have several of those. Back in the day they used to have a Schick Player of the Year; I have three of those. I just have a bunch of other awards and trophies and I can’t even tell you how in the hell they got there. Back in our day you got an award and say ‘Thank you very much.’ But you don’t worry about it very much. Nowadays, I think they [the players] take more pride in that. I wish I would have started earlier, in keeping everything that was presented to me. I wish I would have done that but I didn’t, so I don’t worry about it now.
If you could go back in time over the course of NFL history, who would you want to swap jerseys with?
We didn’t really swap jerseys back in the day because if I wanted your jersey I would take it off your ass, OK?
No truer words have ever been spoken.
(Laughs). If I was to go back in the day, I would like to have Jack Lambert’s jersey. I would like to have Earl Campbell. I would like to have Tony Dorsett. I would like to have Deacon Jones’ jersey. Guys like Reggie White. These are the guys that I admire. These are the guys that inspired me to step up my game.
Who is the one player that inspired a young L.T.?
Back in my day, everybody, as far as I knew, wanted to be a linebacker. Everybody wanted to be Lambert. I wanted to be Lambert. It didn’t take me long to surpass that, though. They talk about Dick Butkus. They talk about Jack Ham. They talk about so many great linebackers and there are a lot of great linebackers, but they can’t do what I did. I’m not trying to be cocky or anything but they couldn’t do what I did.
If we could flip over a trading card of yours and you could have any information of fact written, what would you want that card back to read?
“Hold on to your purse because this is going to be a ride!” I really enjoyed playing the game. I truly enjoyed all aspects of the game. I enjoyed the excitement. I enjoyed the fans. I enjoyed the hits. I enjoyed the practice. I enjoyed playing the game. I look back at my life and I have had my ups and my downs, but if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.