Lawrence Taylor's Legacy: Magnificence On Field, Mayhem Off
The trouble returned early Wednesday morning, when the former New York Giant linebacker, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, was arrested at a Holiday Inn about 40 miles northwest of New York City in connection with the reported rape of a 16-year-old girl. She apparently was a runaway controlled by a pimp, according to The Journal News, which quoted Christopher St. Lawrence, the supervisor of the town of Ramapo, N.Y.
Taylor's previous run-in with the law was last November, when he was arrested for leaving the scene of a traffic accident outside Miami. But while he has had a series of drug problems during his playing career and afterward -- he was among the first group of players suspended when the NFL implemented its drug enforcement policy in 1988 -- he reportedly had been clean for the last 12 years.
"Let's not pre-judge LT just yet. He's been doing well for a long time," Roman Oben, who began his 12-season NFL career with the Giants in 1996, three year's after Taylor's retirement, tweeted Wednesday.
In fact, as he grew older, Taylor, 51, never liked the "LT'' moniker, associating it with being "an adrenaline junkie on a thrill ride.'' In 2003, he said: "LT died a long time ago, and I don't miss him at all. All that's left is Lawrence Taylor."
Taylor, who played at North Carolina, was the second overall pick in the 1981 draft and justified that choice immediately, leading a team that had been 4-12 the previous season to its first playoff berth in 18 seasons. He posted 9 1/2 sacks that season (unofficially, because sacks weren't counted until 1982) and finished with 142 "official'' NFL sacks. He was the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1986, when he had 20 1/2 sacks to lead the Giants to their first Super Bowl victory, one of only two defensive players ever to win that award.
But the on-field heroics were always accompanied by off-field problems, although they received less publicity in an era without an Internet and sites like TMZ. Unless, of course, Taylor talked about those problems, which he did from time to time.
In 1983, after a 3-12-1 season in his first year as head coach, Bill Parcells purged the Giants of a dozen players he knew had used drugs and kept just one -- Taylor, who a few years later acknowledged an addiction to cocaine. In a 1987 autobiography, L.T. wrote "the golf course was my rehab'' and teammates talked about putting him in their cars after practice and driving him to golf courses to keep him from other temptations.
During the 1987 strike, in which the NFL used replacement players, Taylor was one of few Giants who crossed the picket line for the final week of the strike and ended up playing almost 60 minutes -- as a tight end and linebacker in a game in Buffalo.
The Bills replacements won 6-3 in overtime against a team of terrible Giants replacements, deliberately chosen by management so as not to alienate the regulars. But the 0-3 strike record killed the season for a team that had been 17-2 in its title-winning season.
Taylor's problems continued throughout his career, although he was never again suspended. He claimed it was because he had teammates provide him with urine so he could beat drug tests.
In a 2003 interview with Mike Wallace on "60 Minutes," Taylor claimed he hired prostitutes and sent them to the hotel rooms of opponents the night before games. He also acknowledged spending thousands of dollars a day on narcotics, and said that he once showed up at a team meeting in handcuffs after a night with call girls. "A couple of ladies that were trying out some new equipment they had. You know?'' he told Wallace. "And they just didn't happen to have the key."
Following his career, he tried acting and worked as a color commentator for both football and wrestling, although he never had much success at it. He was a contestant on "Dancing with the Stars'' in 2009, eliminated in the seventh week.
He was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 1999, although there was pre-vote speculation that he might be turned down because of his off-field activities. However, HOF rules specify that only his on-field work be considered, making it simple for the voters.
His son, Lawrence Taylor Jr., gave his induction speech and Taylor acknowledged his ex-wife and three children, telling them "thank you for putting up with me all of those years.''