Wrapping his arms around quarterbacks was infinitely easier for Jason Taylor than wrapping his arms around the notion that he’s not only a Hall of Famer, but made it on the first ballot.
Five days after receiving the news that his bust will soon be on display in Canton, Taylor remained in awe as he addressed the media at the Dolphins’ training facility in Davie. As Dan Marino listened from the back of the room, Taylor mentioned Reggie White and Bruce Smith, two other defensive ends who were first-ballot honorees.
“I mean, Bruce Smith, Reggie White and then Jason Taylor? I just never put myself in their class,” Taylor said.
Turning toward Marino, Taylor said, “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.”
Taylor said when he and his two sons traveled to Houston for Super Bowl week festivities that included the Hall vote, he kept insisting they’d be flying back Sunday empty-handed rather than sticking around for functions celebrating the Class of 2017.
“But they’re like, ‘Dad, we’re not coming home early. We’re not going home till Monday night,’ ” Taylor said. “They expected it, but they love Dad.”
Taylor could look back and chuckle at his road to football immortality after the Dolphins drafted him in the third round in 1997.
“I wanted to come in the NFL and be on the practice squad, cover kicks, whatever,” he said. “It’s funny to think back now that I would be willing to cover kickoffs back in ’97, but that’s how desperate I was to get in the league.
“ … Coming out of Akron, I had 25 bucks in my pocket and probably owed somebody 10 bucks, so I was down to $15. 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.”
A career that included 139 1/2 sacks, not to mention countless game-changing and game-winning plays, will do that for a guy. Not all of those plays came in a Dolphins uniform, because he also had brief stints in Washington and with the New York Jets.
“Even when I played for the Jets and for Washington, this was always home,” Taylor said. “I could always come back here.”
Taylor said the past several days have been such a blur he has not chosen a presenter for the Aug. 5 ceremony. One natural candidate would have to be linebacker Zach Thomas, his co-leader of the Dolphins’ defense for years, not to mention his brother-in-law.
As for the theme of his acceptance speech, Taylor again turned to Marino.
“How long did you talk, Dan?” Taylor said.
“Fifteen minutes,” Marino said.
“Dan talked 15 minutes; they give you eight,” Taylor said. “They try to stress to keep it to eight but I don’t know how you get (to thank) everybody in eight minutes.”
As it was, while addressing the media for about 15 minutes, Taylor named a large percentage of those who regularly started alongside him as a Dolphin.
“The list goes on of guys who are all on a piece of that bust as well,” Taylor said. “Because without them, there is no me.”
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