After thirteen seasons in the NFL, the newly retired Fred Taylor is approaching his new ventures in life the same way he did on the field. After playing the game he’s loved almost his whole life, Taylor now embarks on a new journey in life after football. Not knowing what opportunities would be available to him after he hung up his cleats, Taylor knew he would have to take matters into his own hands and create his own opportunities.
Fred Taylor was drafted in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. The University of Florida product skeptically approached the NFL as he was unsure of how he would fit into the game and how his collegiate success would translate to the next level.
“It’s just crazy to me sometimes man. Yah know, playing the in the NFL for thirteen seasons, when I really only wanted to play three. Coming in to Coach Coughlin’s system (former Jaguars head coach) and the way he ran “Camp Coughlin,” it was a beast man. I said ‘man I only want to play three years.’ After my rookie year I thought this was easy. To be perfectly honest, throughout my entire career it’s been extremely easy when I’m healthy. The hard part for me was fighting through early on and figuring out how to stay healthy. Towards the end I realized that you really had to take care of your body during the season and during the off season. Once I figured that out I was really able to do some special things.
Early in his childhood Taylor’s football life was uncertain. He would sit back quietly and mostly observe the neighborhood kids playing football in the park. He liked to get in there and mix it up, but wasn’t really sure where he fit in. When it came to figuring where he would build his legacy, it began with watching a game in 1985. A game that ultimately decided the direction he would take his NFL career.
“It goes back to around 1985, I was nine years old. I used to play in the neighborhood with all the guys. I really wasn’t that good or anything. I found myself kind of just sitting back because the game didn’t really interest me that much. A person wearing number 34 really caught my eye, and that was Walter Payton. I wanted to run with the ball after watching him. I started to run it when we played in the neighborhood and I actually turned out to be one of the fastest kids in the neighborhood. It just kind of took from there… All I would do is run a quick charge left or a quick charge right and I would just out run everybody.”
After attending the University of Florida under the coaching of Steve Spurrier, Taylor left for greener pastures and became a mainstay in the backfield for eleven seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Over the course of his tenure with the Jags, Taylor accumulated over 11,000 yards on the ground and 13,000 all-purpose yards. Those numbers were good enough to put Taylor just outside of the NFL’s all time top ten rushing list.
With the emergence of up and coming running back Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars and Taylor would part ways in 2009, ending an 11-year relationship with the only NFL team he knew. Taylor was now in the latter part of his career and found himself still wanting the opportunity to win a Super Bowl and earn that coveted ring. The New England Patriots gave Taylor in his opinion the best opportunity. He was signed to a two-year deal in 2009. Ultimately he was marred by two injury-plagued seasons and he was unable to accomplish the goals that he had originally set out for himself.
“After I left Jacksonville, I figured I’d go into New England and swing for the fences and give it my all. Unfortunately, the only thing that happened was I missed 20 games over that two-year span. I apologize to the Patriots fans because I didn’t accomplish anything that was on the agenda. But never the less, it was a great experience. I met a lot of great people. It was a classy organization. At the end, I came up about 600 yards short of catching Jim Brown, the greatest running back to ever play the game. I wanted to crack the top ten all time rushing list, but unfortunately it just didn’t happen.”
After the 2010 season Taylor found himself questioning a return for his 14th season. The NFL was locked out and Taylor was finding himself enjoying life without football. Not being in camp, not attending team meetings and breaking down film at the crack of dawn was refreshing for the future Hall of Famer. Although he was enjoying the break from the grueling hits and the constant ankle injuries, there was no room for complacency.
“This is the first time in 14 years that I’ve been able to spend my daughters’ birthday with her. Her birthday is July 31st and every year I’ve been in the NFL and in training camp. I enjoy waking up. My feet are on the floor by 7:00. I’ve made it my rule to have my feet on the floor by 7:00 every morning, it may be 6:59 but my feet WILL be on the floor before 7:00. I just feel like nothing productive happens if you stay in bed past 7:30.
On September 2nd, 2011 Taylor decided to make it official. He signed a one-day contract with Jacksonville Jaguars and announced his retirement from the NFL. In 14 seasons, Taylor finished as the 15th all-time leading rusher in NFL History. Over his career, Taylor finished with 11,695 yards on the ground and 66 career touchdowns.
Taylor knew that even though football was over, his life was truly just beginning. As Taylor’s career was drawing to a close he knew that he had to position himself for success in his post-football life. But how would he go about this new lifestyle? He’s been playing a game his whole life. He’s never had the chance to take on any new endeavors with his life being 24-7 football. The only way to approach it was head-on, embrace the new lifestyle and go one day at a time.
“It’s interesting trying to figure out how to be a grown-up. For the last thirteen years I’ve been playing a kids game. When you encounter real-life outside of football, which is what I’m kind of experiencing right now in this phase of my life. It’s different not waking up and having to go to meetings. It’s all very new to me and I’m up to the challenge… I’m having a great time.”
After retirement, Taylor decided to go back to school to begin taking classes again to eventually earn his degree. He’s been getting his feet wet in the business world and learning how successful business men operate on a daily basis.
“I’m completing my degree as we speak. Just studying and learning the business lingo. I’m attending as many meetings as I possibly can to learn how the business mind really works. I’m surrounding myself with great company and just trying to make my next move. My father and I have property in the Bahamas and now we’re planning on setting up a few time shares.
Taylor’s latest project however is revolutionary in its own right. When Taylor was in high school he never had access to his game film and his highlights. Taylor created an app, designed to show case the talents of his son Kelvin Taylor. The young Taylor is currently a junior at Glades Day High School in Florida and is commanding lots of attention from many of the top programs in the nation. Taylor wanted to create this app for Kelvin to help his son become more accessible to college scouts, and to also help create the memory for his son that he never had.
“It’s just the Kelvin Taylor app, its available on the android market for free. What I learned over my career is that you meet fans from all sorts of walks of life and it’s just as special to me when a fan says to me that they followed me through the course of my career, that’s a true fan. In a very inexpensive way, I wanted to try something new. We didn’t have that technology when I was in high school. I would love to be able to go back and see all of my high school footage. It’s kind of like a little database for Kelvin. He can put all of his highlight film on there, chop it up and edit it. His twitter feed is on there his Facebook is on there. High schoolers really do have a fan base. Social media has joined athletics and created a fan base and you just want to take advantage of that.”
Taylor has enjoyed watching his son’s success on the football field. Luckily Kelvin is a chip off the old block and possesses a lot of the same, raw talent that his father has. The elder Taylor does a nice job of not over coaching his son and just letting him naturally progress on the field.
“I’m excited. I have to catch myself a lot and try and control my emotions when I see him do certain things. I’m like c’mon man, you can do a little better, ha ha! But he’s done well and I can honestly say that. In the three years that he’s been playing varsity, I’ve maybe given him three pointers. I haven’t really tried to coach him. As a running back you have to rely on your natural instincts and ability. One thing I’ve always told him is trust your eyes. You’re a running back, just go get it, react and go. He’s been doing that.”
When it comes to Kelvin’s college selection, Taylor is allowing his son the same opportunity that he was given. As much as he would like to see him follow in his fathers footsteps at the University of Florida, he feels that he needs to make his own decision as to where he will be playing college football.
“As far as his college choices, I’m 100% honest when I say it’s his decision. It’s his choice that he’s going to have to live with for the amount of time that he’s in college and the rest of his life. I felt like Florida was my best choice. Nobody swayed me to make that choice and I want to give him the respect of making that decision.
Fred Taylor will always be remembered as one of the greatest running backs to ever play professional football. Fans will always remember his bruising running style and his quick cuts to break for huge gains. If all goes as planned many of Fred Taylor’s fans will be able to channel their favorite running back through the success of his young and up and coming son Kelvin. For Fred Taylor, life is just beginning. It’s the new adventures that keep him motivated to stay successful off the field. Football will forever be Fred Taylor’s passion and he is always grateful for the opportunities that the game gave him. Now, Taylor aims to be equally as successful in his new opportunities in life after football.