Miami Dolphins’ Jason Taylor helps net sack full of cash at YMCA benefit

Future Hall of Famer Jason Taylor signs a cap at the YMCA Inspiration Breakfast at Office Depot’s headquarters in Boca Raton. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Before Jason Taylor made his sales pitch to a crowd of 500 Tuesday morning, he had to make a confession.

“I hate asking for money,” he said. “But I love taking it.”

Taylor then did both as well as he played football for the Miami Dolphins, entertaining the sellout gathering at the YMCA’s 15th annual Inspiration Breakfast at Office Depot Global Headquarters.

Relying on a personal story as far removed from the gold jacket he soon will wear as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Taylor implored attendees to give, especially to help kids who have it as bad (or worse) than he did growing up with a single mother working two jobs.

By the time Taylor gave up the microphone 40 minutes later, the YMCA — which had a goal of raising $30,000 — had raked in $40,000.

Taylor had to have flashbacks before he spoke, hearing stories of the needy whose lives were changed by the YMCA. Taylor, 42, told the gathering how, when he was about 7 years old growing up in Pittsburgh, his mother, Georgia, would tie the key to their apartment around his neck with a shoestring. She would be gone before Jason woke for school and wouldn’t return home until he was in bed. Jason and his sister, two years older, had to take charge for themselves because Jason never met his father.

About the only time he got to spend time with his mother was on weekends. On Sunday mornings after church, they’d head to the Rainbow Kitchen, the local soup kitchen — not to eat, but to volunteer.

“We had nothing,” he said.

Today, of course, he has everything, having been voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility last month. But the lessons learned back then inspired him to launch the Jason Taylor Foundation in 2004 dedicated toward children in South Florida and leading to the 2007 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.

Tuesday, Taylor took the stage with a handful of autographed footballs, saying he was selling them for $1,000 each. Minutes later, he was asking someone to fetch another handful of balls, because he’d run out.

“We outkicked our coverage,” he said.

Taylor wasn’t done making requests.

“Sometimes more than the check you write is the time you spend with people,” he said. “The time you spend with a kid, whether it be five minutes of your day, it could be an hour a month, whatever it is.

“I had people around me when I was growing up that showed me love, that showed me that they cared. They took an interest in the things and the struggles that I was going through, growing up without a father or wanting to know where he was or why he wasn’t around. Why can’t my relationship with my dad be like one of my best friends? He and his father were like brothers.”

Taylor said he’s dedicated to making sure his children never have the same misgivings.

“The best part of being a dad is I get to do what my dad never did for me,” he said.

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