Lawrence Taylor, an All-America at North Carolina, was the first-round draft pick of the New York Giants and the second player selected overall in the 1981 NFL Draft. The 6-3, 237-pound linebacker set the tone for his pro career with an outstanding rookie season during which he recorded a career-high 133 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 8 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception.
A dominant force on defense, Taylor was named first-team All-Pro in each of his first nine seasons. His ability to dominate a game with his attack style changed the outside linebacker position from a read-and-react posture to an aggressive mode.
An intense player, he had the speed to run past offensive linemen and the strength to out-muscle them. Starting in Taylor’s first season, the Giants began a 10-season streak in which they made the playoffs six times and won two Super Bowls.
Although Taylor’s accomplishments are many, he recorded his finest statistical season in 1986 when he was named the NFL’s MVP, becoming the first defensive player to do so since 1971. That season, Taylor recorded a career high 20.5 sacks, 105 total tackles, five passes defensed, and two forced fumbles.
In a 1988 game against the New Orleans Saints, suffering with a torn pectoral muscle in his shoulder, Taylor demonstrated his remarkable strength and determination. Wearing a harness to keep his shoulder in place, he managed to record seven tackles, three sacks, and two forced fumbles. The Giants won 13-12.
Taylor recorded 132.5 quarterback sacks (not including 9.5 sacks he recorded in 1981, since the sack didn’t become an official NFL statistic until 1982), 1,088 tackles, 33 forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries, and nine interceptions during his career. He was selected to play in 10 Pro Bowls and in 1994 was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.