By Wendell P. Simpson
Lawrence Taylor has always been an intriguing character, a study in contrasts and extremes. His larger than life legend bookends in opposition: by the end of his football career, LT was known as the greatest defensive player in the history of the game; he was also known as one of the most troubled players the NFL ever had to deal with.
In the vernacular, an f*** up.
And even now, as the recent tragedy of his arrest on statutory rape charges unfolds, the dichotomy that is LT’s life continues to play out on a different kind of public stage.
Taylor allegedly pays $300 hundred dollars for sex to an underage prostitute who was obviously just assaulted by her pimp—and even the girl says of him, “I don’t want to ruin his reputation.”
Well, it’s way too late for that, but more telling is the fact that Taylor, a man noted during his career as an unrelenting, belligerent and often brutal defensive force, also owns the reputation as one of the sweetest and engaging man beloved by all.
And that even in the midst of his numerous screw ups, people have been always willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Taylor easily excuses himself. “I’ve just been a reckless man,” he maintains. Not mean, just reckless.
No doubt. His devil-may-care style of play as an NFL linebacker lends vociferous testimony to that fact. There is no doubt in this non-objective fan’s mind that Lawrence Taylor is the greatest football player who ever played. Period. And it was his abandon on the field that made him so very, very frightening and effective.
LT literally changed the game. Dick Butkis? Sam Huff? Ray Nitschke? Mike Curtis? Great players, legends all, no doubt. But LT is the closest thing the game has ever had to a true apocalyptic presence. Offenses had to reconfigure their entire scheme just to account for his ability to disrupt them—and just look at his resume: the first defensive player to be unanimously voted league MVP; first team All-Pro nine times (1981-1989); Defensive Rookie of the Year, 1981; Defensive Player of the Year a record three times (1981, 1982, 1986); and he led his team to an NFL championship in 1986.
But then there are his personal troubles that have always threatened to unravel him. When Taylor blazed out of the University of North Carolina, he was one of the most highly touted prospects ever. Even with his then-unheard of demand for a $250,000 rookie contract in 1981, the Giants went ahead and rolled the dice because LT was such a monster, and because, as Giants coach Ray Perkins would say, “(Taylor) is the cleanest player in the draft—a fine young man.”
Some people have said that New York got in his head; he left North Carolina as Lawrence Taylor, the clean cut kid, and emerged in New York as LT, the monster, the inexorable force—the mad man.
LT says that as early as his sophomore season in the NFL, he began snorting blow. However, between 1986 and 1998, Taylor’s life had tumbled into an abyss of drug and alcohol abuse between allegations of violence, and income tax fraud. Ten arrests for various offenses between those years, and each time, his charm and fame allowed him to duck the more serious repercussions..
In 1998, Taylor was finally able to kick the drugs as he sought to rebuild his life and shattered reputation. He began to get movie roles and commercial and endorsement deals, culminating in his induction into the Pro Football Hall of fame in 1999, his first year of eligibility.
It finally looked like Taylor was getting himself in order until—it all unravels again on May 6, 2010 when the legend is arrested and charged with raping a 16-year-old runaway at a suburban NYC hotel.
The details of the case carry an aura of unseemliness that should have tipped off the worldly Taylor: the girl showed up to his hotel room after having been brutalized by her pimp; and the girl looked young enough that Taylor felt compelled to ask about her age. The girl admitted she’d lied—and even came to LT’s defense.
It seems that the dirt still manages to slide off LT’s back like the slippery skin of a snake—but apparently, even after a decade of sobriety, he is also possessed of the same old recklessness that so succinctly defined the rest of his life.
As for our under-aged victim, well, as it turns out, she and Taylor never had intercourse. According to the girl, the pro bowler paid the girl to just watch him masturbate. In fact, she admits to bragging to her girlfriends that the Taylor rendezvous was the easiest $300 dollars she’d ever made because she didn’t have to do anything to earn it.
All of which seems to suggest that Taylor may not be so much anti-heroic reckless fury as just an ordinary jerk off.