Hall of Fame fullback Jim Taylor dead at 83

Jim Taylor during the TimkenSteel Grand Parade on Cleveland Ave. in advance of the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement.Photo: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Sports Xchange

He was 83.

Taylor played all but one of his 10 seasons with the Packers, rushing for more than 1,000 yards for five consecutive seasons (1960-64) and leading the league with 1,474 yards and 19 touchdowns in 1962.

Taylor was named the Associated Press MVP that season before leading Green Bay to its second consecutive NFL championship.

“The Green Bay Packers family was saddened to learn of Jim Taylor’s passing this morning,” Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy said. “He was a gritty, classic player on the Lombardi teams and a key figure of those great championship runs. One of the best runners of his era, he later was greatly appreciated by multiple generations of Packers fans during his many returns to Lambeau Field with his fellow alumni. Our deepest condolences go out to his wife, Helen, and their family and friends.”

Under legendary coach Vince Lombardi, Green Bay reached the NFL Championship Game six times from 1960-1967, winning five titles. Taylor was part of four NFL championship teams and the inaugural Super Bowl I winners.

“Taylor may not be as big as some fullbacks, but he has balance and determination,” Lombardi said after Taylor’s MVP-winning campaign. “He is hard to knock off his feet and he fights for every yard.”

Taylor also became the first player from that Lombardi dynasty to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1976.

“Jim Taylor lived life the same way he played football, with passion, determination and love for all he did,” Pro Football Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a statement. “The entire Hall of Fame family mourns the loss of a true hero of the game and extends heartfelt condolences to his wife Helen during this difficult time. While Jim’s spirit forever resides at the Hall, we will miss his smile that would light up a room.

“The Pro Football Hall of Fame will keep Jim’s legacy alive so generations of fans will remember his rugged running style, ability to block, and leadership in Coach Vince Lombardi’s ‘run to daylight’ philosophy that made him the first from the Lombardi-era Packers to earn a place in Canton. Jim Taylor’s accomplishments on the football field and throughout his life represent values like commitment, teamwork, sacrifice, and passion that serve as inspiration to us all.”

Taylor was somewhat overshadowed by Cleveland star running back Jim Brown, who led the NFL in rushing in eight of his nine NFL seasons before retiring in 1965.

However, the 6-foot, 214-pound Taylor played with a ferocity and toughness that earned the praise of teammates and opponents alike.

“That son-of-a-gun is the toughest son-of-a-gun in the league,” said running back Paul Hornung, who formed part of a dynamic backfield with Taylor. “I’ve seen him run over guys 30 or 40 pounds bigger than he is like that (snap of a finger). Jimmy Brown may be the best all-around athlete I’ve seen, but he doesn’t have Taylor’s desire.”

In the 1962 NFL championship game, Taylor was named MVP after rushing for 85 yards on 31 carries in brutally cold conditions as the Packers pounded out a 16-7 victory over the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium.

“Taylor isn’t human,” Giants middle linebacker Sam Huff said after the game. “No human being could have taken the punishment he got today.”

Taylor, who played his final season with the New Orleans Saints in 1967, retired from the game as the NFL’s second career leading rusher.

A second-round pick out of LSU in the 1958 NFL Draft, Taylor was named to the Pro Bowl five times. He held Green Bay’s career rushing mark until it was broken by Ahman Green in 2006. Green also eclipsed Taylor’s single-season mark with 1,883 yards in 2003.

Taylor rushed for 8,207 yards and 81 touchdowns with the Packers. He also had 10 receiving scores during his nine seasons in Green Bay.

Overall, Taylor finished his career with 8,597 yards rushing and 1,756 yards receiving on 225 catches while racking up 93 touchdowns in 132 games.