Odds are no single individual will get a more rousing applause on Saturday afternoon at Lambeau Field than Jim Taylor.
Taylor became the sixth all-American from LSU, earning the honors as a fullback in 1957 before being named the Senior Bowl MVP and embarking on a Hall of Fame career with the Green Bay Packers.
Paired with Paul Hornung and Bart Starr in the backfield, Taylor rushed for 8,597 yards and 83 touchdowns, leading the Packers to four NFL championships. A fifth title was punctuated by a 35-10 victory over the AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I. Taylor scored the first rushing touchdown in Super Bowl history, a 14-yarder.
He was the only player to beat Jim Brown for an NFL rushing title over the course of Brown’s career, gaining 1,474 yards in 1962 to earn MVP honors.
To get an idea of what it looked like, this old NFL Films video is appointment viewing:
Taylor will serve as LSU’s honorary captain for the coin toss. Earlier this week, he met with SEC Country’s Alex Hickey at a Baton Rouge coffee house to reflect on his career.
My first year we won one game, the worst team in Packer history. I was in the outhouse. (Vince) Lombardi came and we swiftly moved to the penthouse. …
On the similarities between LSU coach Paul Dietzel and Lombardi, both of whom Taylor played for in their first years as head coaches:
They were really focused in on interacting with the players on both sides of the ball. They really got in there. It was the motivation to get know the players on a first-name basis. They all had ability. It was about getting them excited about execution.
On Lombardi’s famed “power sweep”:
We established that to tell you we’re going to run this, and we’re going to run it to perfection and move the chains. And then the next play might be the off-tackle where Hornung was blocking the linebacker and I’m headed to the weak side and trying to break it. The play is not actually designed to be a toss play or what you would call an outside play, but the tight end or Forrest Gregg or Jerry Kramer might get out there. The variables of the defense dictate to you what to take advantage of.
It was KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. We’d just run it over and over and over. He simplified the four seconds. He was kind of a father figure trying to get you to be tough, be a man and be a team person.
On the massive expansions of Tiger Stadium (capacity 67,720 when Taylor played) and Lambeau Field (capacity 38,669 in his 1962 MVP season):
Tiger Stadium was just a horseshoe.
Green Bay was a very small stadium when we got there. They added some things to get the capacity up to 80,000. In Milwaukee, the Braves played there, it was a lot bigger stadium. We played two games in Milwaukee that we called “home” at County Stadium. We were trying to build fans to the south, towards Chicago.
On facing the rival Bears during his NFL career:
It’s how tough you are and who you want to be. It’s like your conscience. Are you going to just get by, or do you want to be the best of the best? It’s kind of like what your values mean to you. I learned that early. It’s like being prepared for whatever. All their great linebackers are going to tear my ass up and put a hurting on me. Well, come on, let’s get it on.
The biggest rival in college:
Speaking of Tulane, was Max McGee really out all night before Super Bowl I?
Probably so, but I don’t know. I can’t verify or document one way or the other. But knowing he probably wasn’t going to play, he was going to be on the bench … anyway, he was such an athlete that he was capable of stepping in and doing a good job.
On playing in the same backfield as the more heralded Billy Cannon at LSU and Paul Hornung in Green Bay:
They had their own identity. Everybody does. Players know, the media knows. Who I am and where I come from, I don’t have any problem with that role.
On Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke, who thought he was going to be a running back:
We were getting ready to play the College All-Star Game in Chicago. He came from Illinois. He thought he was going to be a running back, he had a 6.8 yard per carry average at Illinois. But once you get up with the men on the next level, he needs to be on defense.
The toughest guys he faced:
(Sam) Huff, (Chuck) Bednarik, (Dick) Butkus, Bill George and my boy from Mississippi State, Joe Fortunato. He was from Natchez. We were good friends.
How did you get so tough?
I worked off-shore roughnecking (working on an oil rig). That’ll make a man out of you. In the summer during my college years, I’d spend 2-3 months out there and make enough money to hold you over. You gotta watch out or you’ll get a damn finger torn off.