Lawrence Taylor “L.T.”
Lawrence Taylor, AKA LT, is arguably the greatest defensive player in NFL history. During his time in the league, he helped changed the way linebackers played the game.
Drafted with the number two pick in the 1981 NFL Draft out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Taylor immediately had a huge impact on the Giants’ defense. During his first season, the Giants defense reduced the number of points they gave up by over 150. He became the first rookie in history to win Defensive Player of the Year. In fact, he is the only player to win either Offensive or Defensive Player of the Year in his first season. Taylor would go on to win two more Defensive Player of the Year awards.
One of the most memorable moments of his career happened on a Monday Night Game against the Washington Football Team. He inadvertently broke Joe Theismann’s leg and ended his career. The sack was not a dirty play and immediately after, Taylor called for paramedics to attend to Theismann.
Taylor was consistently a great pass rusher during his career. Apart from the 1982 season which was shortened due to a player strike, Taylor had nine sacks or more from 1981-1990. During the lockout season, he still had 7.5 sacks in just nine games. From 1984-1990, Taylor had 10 or more sacks, including his historical 1986 season where he had 20.5 sacks. At the time, he was just the second player in NFL history to have 20 or more sacks in a season.
He was a key member of the Big Blue Wrecking Crew. This was the name of the Giants vaunted defense from 1986 to 1993. They dominated the NFL during that stretch as they produced some of the greatest defensive seasons of all time. They won the Super Bowl in 1986 and 1990 led by the unit’s Defensive prowess. During this period, Taylor collected his third and final Defensive Player of the Year award in 1986. In that same season, he became just the second player after Alan Page to win the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. To this day, he is the only defensive player to win the MVP unanimously.
Taylor was also known for his ability to play through games with injuries. One notable game was when he played through a torn pectoral muscle and recorded seven tackles, three sacks, and two forced fumbles.
His impact on the game is still seen to this day. Before Taylor, outside linebackers were known for reading and reacting to what the offenses did. Now outside linebackers attack and play more aggressively against offenses. He changed the blocking schemes that teams usually used to block linebackers who were blitzing. Before, teams used to use a running back to pick up blitzes, however, after seeing they cannot match up against Taylor, they started using offensive guards to block him. Head coach Joe Gibbs developed the two tight end offense to contain Taylor. He also is the person credited with using the chop to knock the ball out of players’ hands. This helped him accumulate 34 forced fumbles throughout his career.
1089 total tackles
132.5 sacks (Sacks did not become an official stat until 1982)
Nine interceptions (134 return yards)
Two touchdowns (One fumble return, one interception return)
33 forced fumbles
11 fumble recoveries (34 fumble return yards)
2x Super Bowl champion (1986,1990)
NFL MVP (1986)
3x Defensive Player of the Year (1981, 1982, 1986)
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (1981)
8x First-Team All-Pro (1981-1986, 1988, 1990)
2x Second-Team All-Pro (1987, 1990)
10x Pro Bowl (1981-1990)
League leader in sacks (1986)
No. 56 retired by the New York Giants
2x NFC Defensive Player of the Year (1984, 1986)
2x NFC Defensive Player of the Year (1983, 1986)
Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee (1999)