JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP)
Fred Taylor had been practicing all week to make sure he didn't cry
during his final press conference as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It didn't work.
He paused, overcome with emotion, as a gathered crowd of Jaguars
executives, players and staff members waited. Then, tearfully, Taylor
began thanking the people who shaped him as he became the best running
back the Jaguars have ever had, and one of the best ever to play the
Taylor signed a ceremonial one-day contract with the Jaguars on Friday,
then retired with the team that drafted him. After a 13-year NFL
career, he is done playing.
''This is an extremely special moment for me,'' Taylor said. ''It's
unreal. It's a moment that I knew would come. I wouldn't have wanted
any other way. I've always known that I would retire as a Jaguar. It's
amazing how time goes by.''
Taylor ranks 15th in all time rushing yards among NFL players, with
2,534 carries for 11,695 yards. He rushed for 66 touchdowns in 153
games. He also holds Jaguars records for career yards with 11,271,
single-season yards with 1,572 in 2003 and single-game yards with 234
against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2000.
''He really was the heart and soul of this team in some of our early
years,'' Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver said. ''We want to strive to get
back to where we were back in those days. Fred Taylor clearly is a
standard bearer to represent that.''
Weaver said Taylor's jersey will be the second to be placed in The
Pride of the Jaguars, Jacksonville's ring of honor. It will go beside
former offensive lineman Tony Bosellis.
Fred Taylor (Getty Images)
Taylor spent the first 11 years of his career with the Jaguars after
being drafted ninth overall in 1998. He made an impact immediately,
rushing for 1,223 yards that season, which is still a record for
''What the Jaguars are today is what Fred was talking about,'' running
back Maurice Jones-Drew said. ''A team that we just live and die
through him. And were going to keep doing it.''
Injuries plagued the early part of Taylor's career, and might have kept
him from setting the NFL record for rushing yards. He missed six games
in 1999, three with a knee injury to start the 2000 season. Taylor
suffered a gruesome groin injury in 2001, in which the muscle was torn
off the bone, which sidelined him for 14 games.
Taylor finished his career with the Patriots, playing sparsely, out
often due to injuries. He made a point of thanking the Patriots coach
Bill Belichick, the Kraft family, which owns the team, and the
Friday morning, a highlight video shown before Taylor spoke, featured
his best plays. It included a 90-yard touchdown run and 39-yard
touchdown reception against the Miami Dolphins in a Jaguars playoff win
after the 1999 season. A broadcaster screamed in the background, Where
did this guy come from?
Taylor spoke eloquently about where he came from, a two-bedroom
apartment in Belle Glade where his grandmother raised five
''She took her last 60 dollars and gave it to me so I could try out for
a Pop Warner team,'' Taylor said. ''Man, I was sorry, I was sorry. I
played defensive tackle and tight end. I couldn't catch to save my
He wept as he thanked his wife, who sat beside him, for molding his
''I really believe that had she not come into my life, I would have
still been on the left side of the highway, lost, not knowing which way
to go,'' Taylor said.
Taylor apologized to the handful of former teammates in attendance for
not being the kind of leader he thought he should have been. He said he
But when Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis spoke, there was no hint of
that in his words. Instead Taylor, a locker room leader the entire time
Mathis played with him, inspired them.
''We salute you,'' Mathis said. ''We love you, we appreciate you, we
honor you. This is a day to celebrate all that you was, all that you
are and all that you're still going to be. Freddy T, we love you,