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Green Bay Packers great Jim Taylor reflects on career in 'The Fire Within'

Sep. 11, 2010
 
Packers fullback Jim Taylor jumps through the line during a 35-17 victory over the Los Angeles Rams at new City Stadium on Nov. 19, 1961. Quarterback Bart Starr watches from behind the play. Rams defensive end Deacon Jones (75) and safety Clendon Thomas (35) are on either side of Taylor.
Packers fullback Jim Taylor jumps through the line during a 35-17 victory over the Los Angeles Rams at new City Stadium on Nov. 19, 1961. Quarterback Bart Starr watches from behind the play. Rams defensive end Deacon Jones (75) and safety Clendon Thomas (35) are on either side of Taylor. / Press-Gazette archives

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The last time the Green Bay Packers won a game in Philadelphia, John F. Kennedy was president, a gallon of gasoline cost 31 cents, and current Packers coach Mike McCarthy was still a year away from being born.

Sunday the Packers will attempt to end that 48-year winless drought on the Eagles’ home field that dates to Nov. 11, 1962. Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Jim Taylor remembers that day well, because he rushed 25 times for 141 yards and scored four touchdowns in the Packers’ 49-0 beat-down of the Eagles at Franklin Field.

Taylor was well on his way to an NFL MVP season that included 1,474 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns as the Vince Lombardi-coached Packers rolled to the league championship.

But Taylor also doesn’t forget that two years earlier, on the same field, the Packers lost a 17-13 NFL title game heartbreaker to the Eagles in what turned out to be Lombardi’s only playoff loss as Packers coach. Taylor said that defeat helped springboard the Packers to their dynasty in the 1960s.

“We were just starting to mature and develop and become a good solid football team,” he said.

The Packers followed up that loss in Philadelphia by going 24-4 the next two seasons and capturing back-to-back NFL titles.

In Taylor’s new book, “The Fire Within,” he talks about the Packers’ Glory Years, his less-than-amicable departure from Green Bay prior to Lombardi’s final championship season, and his life before and after football.

During a telephone interview on Friday, the soon-to-be 75-year-old Taylor also discussed how he survived a near-fatal stroke in 2004 and how well his muscles and joints feel despite the pounding he took during 10 NFL seasons.

Taylor earned five Pro Bowl berths and was the Packers’ all-time career rushing leader for nearly a half-century until Ahman Green broke the record in 2009. Taylor and Paul Hornung formed a formidable 1-2 rushing punch that helped the Packers’ offense excel.

Taylor, who lives in Baton Rouge, said he works out daily and weighs less than he did when he played football.

“I still can hit a golf ball pretty good,” he said with his distinctive Louisiana drawl. “I ran a marathon when I was 50. I’ve got a few screws loose because I carried the ball so many times. Besides that I’m functioning at a high level.”

Taylor prided himself on a strong work ethic and thrived under Lombardi and his taskmaster ways. Taylor was a punishing runner who loved to lower his shoulder and plow into a defender if it meant gaining an extra 12 inches.

He said he maintained his focus on winning.

“Individual honors and all this are very irrelevant to me and they just kind of go with the wind,” he said. “It didn’t matter how many times I carried the ball or how many touchdowns I made or whether I made the Pro Bowl. All that’s secondary. All that’s way down the list.”

Taylor said it wasn’t easy leaving the Packers in 1967 after they won the first Super Bowl. While he was playing his lone season with the expansion New Orleans Saints the following season, the Packers were winning a third consecutive championship without him.

“We had a difference,” Taylor said of his contract negotiations with Lombardi. Taylor felt unappreciated when rookies Jim Grabowski and Donny Anderson were offered considerably more money than he was making.

“It’s kind of like, what can you do for me now?” said Taylor.

“Grabowski and Anderson, they didn’t gain 3,000 (career) yards between them. But they were paid this and that. That’s all part of the business. That’s all part of the way the game had changed. You don’t necessarily have to be paid on your productivity.”

Taylor said he harbors no hard feelings toward the Packers. He signed a long-term contract with the Saints to work in the front office and as a radio color analyst.

“I’ve had a wonderful life,” said Taylor. “It’s been very exciting.”

After his stroke, Taylor is simply happy to be alive.

“I keep a good positive attitude,” he said. “You’re here for a reason. (God) left me here for a reason.

“I have meaning to get up every day and want to do things or help somebody.”

Mike Vandermause is sports editor of the Press-Gazette.

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