Friday Featured Athlete: Jacksonville Jaguars Legend Fred Taylor
Although injuries hampered much of his career, former Jacksonville Jaguars star Fred Taylor still managed to put up a stellar career for an NFL running back.
Taylor grew up in Pahokee, Florida and would attend Glades Central High School in Belle Glade, Florida. After beginning his high school football career as a linebacker, Taylor would switch to running back as a junior. Taylor ran for 1,700 yards and scored 22 touchdowns in his first season as the RB for Glades Central High School. Following a successful high school football career, Taylor would eventually be heralded as one of the "100 Greatest Players of the First 100 Years" of Florida high school football by the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA).
Taylor accepted a scholarship to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida and played for the Gators football team from 1994 to 1997. During Taylor's time on the team, the Florida Gators enjoyed quite a bit of success as head coach Steve Spurrier became one of the most successful coaches in college football. After winning a national championship in 1996, Taylor was elected to be a team captain and put up 1,292 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. He earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors and was chosen by his teammates as the Gators' Most Valuable Player.
When Taylor left the University of Florida, he ranked fourth in school history with 3,075 yards and 31 touchdowns.
The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Taylor with the No. 9 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Taylor rushed for 1,223 yards and 14 touchdowns. Despite the initial success, Taylor's career would begin to tumble as injuries hampered the star running back. Fans and media were critical of Taylor's toughness and gave him the nickname, "Fragile Fred", a moniker that bothered Taylor he would later admit.
Although his Jaguars career would become mired with injuries, Taylor still managed to put up productive seasons. In 2002, Taylor rushed for 1,314 yards and set a then-team record with 1,722 yards from scrimmage. He bested that with 1,572 rushing yards on an impressive 345 carries in 2003. In 2004, Taylor again rushed for over 1,000 yards, totaling 1,224 yards and extended his streak of consecutive starts to 46 games.
Taylor earned his first (and only) Pro Bowl honor in 2007 after rushing for 1,202 yards and posting a career-best 5.4 yards-per-carry. He had a string of five consecutive 100-yard games late in the season, earning AFC Offensive Player of the Month honors.
Taylor's career would continue into the later part of the 2000s, eventually finding his way to the New England Patriots for the final two years of his career.
He retired after eclipsing 11,000 career rushing yards and 13,000 career all-purpose yards.