Jason Taylor – February 9, 2016 Download PDF version

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Defensive End/Linebacker Jason Taylor

(Opening statement) – “First of all, I apologize for making you guys wait. Some things never change. (laughter) I want to thank everyone for being here. It’s obviously a huge honor. I couldn’t be happier; I couldn’t be more surprised, but what a great experience we had in Houston. I had the chance to take my sons with me so Isaiah and Mason got to see it all and experience the whole ride and the emotion of sitting around waiting. Obviously, to get the knock on the door, to go into the Hall of Fame, it’s the pinnacle of what we do in professional sports, the pinnacle of professional football. I can’t be more elated to be in the Hall of Fame with the other nine Miami Dolphins that are there. One of my best friends and mentors for so many years and a guy I look up to, even to this day, Dan Marino, is here today. When I came in, in ’97, I used to sit across the locker room and look at Dan, knowing who he was, what he was, what he meant to Miami and to the National Football League. I’m not on Dan’s level but I’m a Hall of Famer like Dan Marino and that just blows my mind. I still have not grasped it yet because it’s been a whirlwind. As you can see, I’m way behind schedule, as I’m here an hour late; but I owe a lot of people thanks – and this will all go over the next six or seven months, to get a chance to thank everybody, hopefully individually – but if I don’t get to see them, I’ll have a speech in Canton and touch on them there. But (President and Chief Executive Officer) Tom Garfinkel and (Senior Vice President, Special Projects and Alumni Relations) Nat Moore had a chance to be in the room in Houston, and (Senior Director, Video and Game Day Production) Jeff Griffith, had a chance to be there and experience the anticipation, the nervousness. My daughter called at like 4:30 p.m. and when the phone rang, everyone kind of got real quiet; but thank God it was her and not somebody else from the Hall of Fame saying, ‘You didn’t make it.’ I want to thank (Vice President of Historical Affairs) Harvey Greene and (Senior Director, Digital and Print Media) Scott Stone who have done a ton of work, and (Executive Director of the Jason Taylor Foundation) Seth Levit, who did a ton of work putting together stats and information from my body of work for 15 years. These guys are good. They came up with stuff that I didn’t know – numbers that I had not been aware of. As a defensive end, you know how many sacks you have, you know how many touchdowns you have, but it’s the game changing and affecting plays that I was lucky enough to make. These guys worked tirelessly to put together to present to the Hall of Fame selectors. I want to thank the selectors as well. (Miami Herald Columnist) Armando Salguero did the presentation there in Houston and 80 percent of that group felt I was worthy to go into the Hall of Fame. So as I said, I’m still trying to figure it all out but, as everyone has told me since then, I keep telling them that I can’t believe it. They’re like ‘Look, they can’t take it back now.’ So those 48 selectors, I owe them all dinner, or whoever selected me. One guy – there’s a bunch of guys that made it possible as teammates – and one guy that’s in the room here and I’ll touch on others I’m sure in the answers later, but Sam Madison. I said this in Houston at the press conference, with Sam Madison and Pat Surtain playing defense – playing man-to-man defense on the outside – I could teach anybody in this room how to get to the quarterback. When you get eight or nine seconds to get there to make plays, it makes it so much easier. Zach Thomas, Tim Bowens, Trace Armstrong, I mean the list goes on. I don’t want to exclude anybody but the guys that I played with over the years, offensively and defensively, made this possible. There are so many things we take away from different teammates, no matter what side of the ball they are on. I’ve always said that I was the lucky recipient of making plays and getting a chance to stand up in front of the media and talk about it, and get my picture out there and my name out there and all of that. But there were some guys that really, really grind that don’t get credit, that don’t get seen, that don’t show up on the stat sheet. I had a chance … I was walking around the NFL Experience Friday night with my sons in Houston and got a call from Tim Bowens. Tim Bowens is the man. To get a call from … he actually texted Seth (Levit), who works over at the office, and told Seth to tell me congrats; and Seth said why don’t you just call him, you have his number. He’s like, ‘Man, he never answers the phone.’ So when the phone rang an hour later at the Experience, I had to answer it. But it was crazy in there with fans and people and trying to keep track of my kids but I answered the call and Tim was like, ‘Man, what the heck are you doing answering the phone?’ But it was good to get a chance to talk to him and then he texted me obviously after I got selected. I want to thank (Executive Vice President, Football Operations) Mike Tannenbaum and everybody here at the Dolphins organization for always making me feel at home. This was home for 13 of my 15 years and even when I played for the Jets and for Washington, this was always home. I could always come back here. I see (Team Security Emeritus) Stu (Weinstein) in the back. Stu was always welcoming and this is home. I can’t even put into words how much this means to me as a player, as an individual, as a Miami Dolphin, to my family and all of the hundreds and hundreds of my teammates that I’ve had throughout the years. My bust is going to be in Canton but Sam Madison, Dan Marino, Pat Surtain, Zach Thomas, Richmond Webb – another guy that should be in Canton – Tim Bowens, Daryl Gardener, Adewale Ogunleye, the list goes on of guys that are all a piece of that bust as well, because without them, there is no me. So with that being said, I guess I’ll open it up for questions.”

(You said when you were drafted in 1997, correct me if I’m wrong, you were hoping to just make the practice squad? And if I could follow up, you keep saying you were surprised that you got in. Were you surprised because it’s on the first ballot?) – “To your first question in 1997, when I was leaving college, I wanted to come in the NFL and be on the practice squad, cover kicks, whatever. It’s funny to think back now that I would be willing to cover kickoffs back in 1997, but that’s how desperate I was to get into the league. You get picked in the third round, you kind of figure out that you’re going to be here for a minute. They don’t usually cut third-rounders, but Jimmy Johnson would. But yes, I just had to find my way. Football was still new to me. I was only six years into playing the game in my life. I didn’t start as a young kid, so it was still new to me and I had to figure out with the weight issues. ‘Can he play at 240? Can he put his hand in the dirt?’ All of those things. I would do anything to be in the league at that point. When you’re coming out of college, coming out of Akron, I had 25 bucks in my pocket and I probably owed somebody 10 bucks so I was down to 15 dollars. You’d do anything to get on the practice squad and make seven grand a week. But never did I think that 20 years later, I’d be standing here for sure. What was the other part of your question?”

(You keep saying that you’re surprised that you got in on the first ballot.) – “I am. You look historically at the guys who have … Correct me if I’m wrong, I think the other defensive ends to go in on the first ballot were Bruce Smith and Reggie White? Is that right? Bruce Smith, Reggie White and Jason Taylor? I just never put myself in their class. I didn’t win a championship, and I thought that would come up, but for whatever reason, maybe I was playing mind tricks on myself and trying to talk myself into not worrying about it so much. I really wasn’t worried about it. I thought that it would happen one day maybe. I thought that it probably should happen one day because based on the numbers and where I finished in the overall list of sacks and game-changing plays and other things. But I went to Houston expecting to fly out Sunday morning and come back to Miami. I would go to the awards show, congratulate the guys that made it, but my plan was to change my flight and come home early. My kids, they’re kids, but they’re like, ‘Dad, we’re not coming home early. We’re not going home until Monday night.’ They expected it, but they love Dad and they support Dad regardless. My son kept saying, he probably said it when Nat (Moore) and Tom (Garfinkel) and those guys were in the room. He told me all day Saturday, my youngest son Mason kept saying ‘Dad, if you don’t believe it, you can’t achieve it.’ And it’s funny he said that, because it’s things that I say to the teams that I coach and the kids that I coach. We’ve heard it for years, but I didn’t expect to get the knock on the door. The look of shock and surprise was genuine. It was not … Even when we went to the awards show and they announced it on stage at the NFL honors, I was standing backstage with Jerry (Jones) and ‘L.T.’ (LaDainian Tomlinson) and the rest of those guys. ‘L.T.’ we all knew was going to go in. ‘L.T.’ was a given and he still had that look of awe and surprise a little bit. It’s a big moment, so it’s a lot of weight; but I’m looking at Jerry and ‘L.T.’ as they’re calling our names about to walk on the stage and I’m like, is this real? Are we really doing this? It’s really cool to be able to go in on that first ballot and not have to deal with the emotions that Morten Anderson and Joe Jacoby and some of these other guys have had to deal. John Lynch, I was with John Lynch a lot on Friday night talking about it. So it was really cool.”

(What did it mean to you that Patriots QB Tom Brady wrote a letter of endorsement for you? He called you the most tenacious defender in the league.) – “It’s pretty cool. It’s pretty humbling that a guy of Brady’s caliber … We know his resume and his body of work and how much weight he carries in this league. You play this game for a lot of different reasons. The number one reason is to win. And you want the respect of the fans and the media and everyone that plays, but there is nothing better than hearing from your peers – the guys that are in the trenches and doing it as well and putting the time and the work in over the years and understanding what it takes to play this game at a high level. So to get that respect from someone like a Tom Brady … I saw a lot of comments. The letter from Brady was ridiculous. It was humbling. We had a lot of battles. But I see comments from Jonathan Ogden and Orlando Pace and Bill Polian and all of these guys that are so lofty in this league and it’s really humbling to get those kinds of comments from guys.”

(I know it’s very soon since you were voted in but 1: Have you picked who is going to present you? And 2: What do you suspect the theme of your speech will be when you get to Canton?) – “Man, you are way ahead of me. You are so far ahead of me. (laughter) No, and I don’t know. I haven’t picked a presenter yet. Literally, I got the news Saturday night, went to the game Sunday, did all of the orientation and measurements and stuff on Monday, got home late Monday night, my son had surgery at six in the morning on Tuesday and then it has just been non-stop. I haven’t had an hour where I’ve sat down yet and really took it in. When I get home at night, I just go to bed and try to get as much sleep as I can and kind of pound the pavement the next day. I’ll figure those things out. I’ll talk to a bunch of guys that are in. I’ll go have a bite to eat with Dan (Marino) hopefully and get a lot of direction with him but the theme, I didn’t even know there was supposed to be a theme. This is all new, man. I have a lot of people to thank and they give you, I don’t know … How long did you talk Dan?”

Dan Marino:

“Fifteen minutes.”

Jason Taylor:

“Dan talked 15 minutes; they give you eight. The try to stress to keep it to eight but I don’t know how you get everybody in eight minutes. There are just so many people that make this engine run from upstairs, the administrators and assistants and coaches and equipment guys and security guys and trainers. There are a thousand people to thank and unfortunately, you only get so much time. So we’ll figure it out.”

(If you could make a case for LB Zach Thomas to join you at some point, what would it be? And do you think it’s going to happen for him?) – “I said this too in Houston, there are a handful of guys … There are a lot people that, like I said, made me who I am. There are a handful of guys that I’ve played with that are elite status as far as players, people, competitors, teammates, and Zach Thomas is No. 1 on that list. He made everybody that played with him better. He’s one of those guys that I think never got the respect he deserved. He never got the attention he deserved. To me, is he a Hall of Famer? Absolutely. Because again, without Zach, there is no way in the world I’m standing here right now. Without Sam (Madison) and without Pat (Surtain), there’s a handful of guys that there’s absolutely no way – Trace Armstrong – that I’m here without them. Richmond Webb. Richmond Webb and Zach Thomas I think are two Hall of Famers. Whether their bust is in Canton or not, they’re Hall of Famers to me and hopefully one day, people will wake up and see that and realize it and they’ll get a chance to go through this too.”

(You’ve been involved with the current team a little bit. What have your impressions been of Head Coach Adam Gase during the time that you’ve interacted with him?) – “I think Adam’s great. I think he has done a great job. You see the success that the team had this year and came out of nowhere. After a rough start, he made some really tough moves for a head coach to make at that point in the season and you see the way the team responded. Are there holes to fill on the team? Sure, and I think he’d be the first to tell you. Obviously if you don’t win the championship, you have things that you need to correct. If you win the championship, the Patriots are working as we speak to correct things too. But they’re on the right path. It was great to see them in the playoffs. The excitement … It’s amazing the excitement that builds in this city when this football team is playing well. The other teams in town, the Heat had a run and the city was electric; but it’s just different when the Dolphins are good. I think Adam is on the right track and he’ll continue to build. I know Mike Tannenbaum and Chris Grier and those guys are working tirelessly to not just make the playoffs but win the division, win playoff games and hopefully be in Minnesota (for the Super Bowl) next year.”

(DE Cameron Wake is having a run over several years kind of along the lines of what you experienced. Do you see him kind of trending towards this direction as well at some point?) – “I think he’s been trending in that direction. Hopefully he can play as long as he can and keep being as productive as he’s been. He’s just a remarkable athlete. The things he’s able to do and the way he bounced back from an Achilles injury at his – I hate even saying it but at his age, so to speak. It doesn’t surprise me at all. Having a chance to be around Cam and be a teammate of his, knowing the way he works, knowing the work he was putting in, in the offseason, when this building was empty of players and they’re off and when he’s probably supposed to be on crutches still or in a boot still and he’s pushing it. He’s just that kind of guy. He takes care of himself. He’s super athletic, ridiculously strong. You guys see how … I mean he never wears a shirt so you guys see how he’s built and how he takes care of himself. He can do it for a long time. He’s already trended in this direction, trust me. Cam Wake is a better football player and a better pass rusher than I ever was and hopefully he can keep doing it for a while.”

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