We all think of different things when we hear the name Lawrence Taylor. Football, debauchery, a rap sheet longer than a CVS receipt. And all of those things are true – but who is the man behind the ball and the bail?
For a in-depth look at Lawrence Taylor’s football career, read my co-writer, Ryan’s article here.
Baby Lawrence Taylor was born to his parents Clarence and Iris Taylor on February 4th of 1959. He was the middle child of three boys. Clarence and Iris provided their children with a middle-class lifestyle, working as a shipyard worker and schoolteacher, respectively.
Little LT was a handful from the beginning. Clarence said the young boy liked to hit, which probably means something significant in a family of boys. Iris said he would never ask for permission, and always had a story when he got caught. She put her young son to work doing hours of chores just to keep him occupied.
At age 9, Lawrence seemingly saw into the future and said he wanted to be famous and a millionaire by age 30. He knew it wouldn’t be by being a good student – he was smart but not motivated in the classroom. He started to put that energy into sports by playing Little League Baseball as a catcher for four years. His mother thought football would be too “dangerous.” Mom wasn’t wrong…
LT didn’t play football until he was 15. His coach convinced him a football scholarship was his ticket to college, and Lawrence agreed. Between Junior and Senior year he had a huge growth spurt and was ready to take the field on as a linebacker. He loved that position because he felt in control of the field. He could survey the entire gridiron from his vantage point. Due to his short high school career, Lawrence wasn’t high on the college recruit list.
Lawrence Taylor goes to college
Not so little LT attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His play in college was defined by being reckless. When trying to block a punt, he would jump up six or seven feet, and land directly on his neck coming down.
He kept his nose clean off the field, both literally and figuratively.
The NFL has always been the sort of dividing line between good Lawrence and “bad boy” Lawrence. If that was true, why did he drink 41 beers on his NFL draft day? In the words of Lily Aldrin of HIMYM, I smell the poop.
Mr. Hyde, is that you?
LT did a line at a party his rookie year, and that was the beginning of a long and sordid love affair with the hard stuff. It’s unclear if that happened before or after he almost died in a car accident while speeding that same year. Get this. The Giants literally got a life insurance policy on Lawrence Taylor, so they could get some money back on their investment. The GM of the Giants said Taylor wouldn’t make it to 30. Why are all his life landmark events supposed to happen by age 30?
It’s hard to keep a handle on all of Lawrence Taylor’s debauchery in his early career, so hang on tight.
First off, this man rarely attended practices. If he did, he came in incredibly late the first few years of his career. One gameday, his teammates had to stall for him while a staff person waded through the Tequila bottles in Taylor’s apartment. The man found him passed out on the floor and brought Taylor to the game late. Lawrence even had the audacity to show up to a practice with handcuffs still on one wrist. The “lady officers” lost the key during the festivities the night before.
The Giants management couldn’t have held him to a lower standard if they tried. Bill Parcels, the Defensive Coordinator put in the effort to motivate Lawrence. He was a bit of a micromanager with a emphasis on negative reinforcement. A teammate found LT in his room once crying, stamping his feet, slamming his headboard, saying Bill was “breaking him.” Eventually the situation came to a head, and LT demanded a trade or be replaced in his position, if Parcels would just get off his back. Lawrence had a sensitive side.
Taylor’s need for speed, well not speed, but the other stuff increased. I’m not a chemist, but apparently there’s a difference between the thing named after your favorite brand of soda and the thing that the plumber shows you when he bends over. LT was smoking an ounce of the latter daily by 1984.
Lawrence was putting his pedal to the metal elsewhere. He would drive at incredibly high speeds, claiming he didn’t care if he ended his life, or the lives of others. I call BS on this because he panicked and screamed for the pandemics when he compound fractured Joe Theismann’s leg. Think bone poking through skin if you want a visual. Taylor has intentionally avoided ever having to see that play again, he was so bothered by it. I sense the hint of a conscience.
Speaking of putting things places, Lawrence Taylor had an appreciation for the ladies. And not just his three wives (at separate times). They always say a strawberry smoothie spiked with penicillin keeps the STD’s away. Actually, no, just LT and his teammates said that. It was a fridge staple. He allegedly enjoyed this beverage for champs early on in his career because he was afraid of impending illness due to having more partners than the King of Solomon (the Song of Solomon guy) and Hugh Hefner put together. A teammate describes the house several of the players rented together in 1981 in a way that would put Tyrion Lannister to shame.
Following the theme of ladies of the night, LT would send some to his opposing teammates the night before a game to drain their energy and keep them up late. How did he get the idea? Someone did it to him first. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. Another version of the game you can hate is the bounty gate before the bounty gate, when the Giants would pay the players to hit someone “straight up” according to Taylor. The Giants wanted to make sure Lawrence had a brain with more holes in it then Swiss cheese from neurocognitive decline before he hit 30 too.
LT seems to have these years where things just really go downhill for him and his dysfunction level skyrockets. 1981, 1987, and 2009.
Lawrence Taylor tries rehab
A reporter mentioned rumors of Taylor’s drug addiction at the 1986 at the Pro Bowl. That was just one step to far to LT. It was time for rehab. He was there long enough to have a reporter out his stay to the public three days in, and to attend one group therapy session. He thought the people were “crazy.” The man who chewed glass, danced with the ladies on the poles at the clubs, and threw $50’s instead of the typical dollar bills. I want to overhear that therapy group. He opted out for a golf vacation for the rest of the off-season.
He failed his first pee test in 1987 and admitted his usage for the first time. He failed the next year too. The person who’s pee he borrowed had drugs in his system too! The funny part? That same teammate passed his own pee test. LT was suspended for four games. Lawrence and his teammates are open about his fellow players contributions that kept him looking clean for years. Taylor had to actually stay clean after 1988 because one more dirty test would end his career. He started usage again the day after his retirement from the NFL. It was his “light at the end of the tunnel” that had him looking forward to a retirement. An event that had previously scared him, due to uncertainty of the future.
LT said in 1987, “For me, crazy as it seems, there is a real relationship between wild, reckless abandon off the field and being that way on the field.” No, Lawrence, that’s probably the least crazy part of your entire story. It’s surprising that so many players are able to compartmentalize their on-field persona and their off field life so well.
After Lawrence Taylor’s retirement he laid pretty low when it came to nefarious behavior. He did good things – he was good at investments, he tried his hand at acting, he got married two more times, was a father to his four kids he loves very much, was on Dancing with the Stars, and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
LT’s good behavior had a few hiccups in the 90’s. He was arrested twice for buying substances, and once for being in possession of them. He spent a grand a day regularly on drugs and women. It wouldn’t be unusual for him to hire up to six ladies in a 24 hour period. He had a Grand Theft Auto moment when he nearly got robbed and killed trying to find substances in a bad neighborhood. Thy didn’t know who they were messing with though – he ended up beating one of the men and stole all his drugs. He did lose a Rolex and a ring though.
The good news? LT managed to stay sober for one year in 1996. He got bored though – life wasn’t the same when he was just playing golf and watching TV. He took another stab at sobriety in 1999 when it was either rehab or jail time.
I’m not saying OJ and LT are crime twins, but I am saying they share more than two letter abbreviations of their names. They both were enshrined in the HOF – OJ in 1985, and LT in 1999, and people wanted to kick them both out for their criminal activity. These two gentlemen have proved that there is no crime bad enough to get the boot from the HOF. They also both wrote books about their alleged crimes with no significant repercussions. Lawrence even wrote his during his career, while he was still doing some of the things. The sort of cherry on the cupcake was his “Tell All” in 2003 when he made sure to fill in the gaps so we all know he broke the law in multiple ways, his entire NFL career. The same program where Taylor suggested the “LT persona” is gone, and now he’s going to be good boy Lawrence. Not so fast!
Came in like a wrecking ball
Lawrence’s evil twin, not OJ this time, just Mr. Hyde, resurfaced in 2009. He wishes that Miley Cyrus was what came in on a wrecking ball, and not his personal vices resurfacing with a side of CTE.
Taylor famously said in 2012 that it was not the 80’s or 90’s anymore, “you have to govern yourself accordingly.” Everyone except Taylor of course. 2009 kicked off with his second hit and run. He didn’t know you had to report a hit and run accident as long as only one driver is present and driving.
Lawrence Taylor pulled a Viserys First of His Name in 2010 (I love that King, but she was too young bro, even if she was “of age” unlike in this situation). LT got slapped with a charge that put him on that one registry where you have to “introduce” yourself to the neighbors every time you move. LT Jr. got a similar charge three years later!
Lynette Taylor (a second LT!) got arrested in 2017 for assaulting Lawrence by throwing something at him and struck him in the back of the head. She also threw hands at the cops when they showed up and detained her. Lady LT has a violence streak in her rap sheet. A couple made in heaven.
We heard from Lawrence Taylor last year when he was facing two felony charges for not registering his new address after moving. Apparently, his permanent residency was still in his family home with Lady LT, but he dipped out and was living in hotels mid-divorce. Basically that situation is as complicated as Lawrence’s pathology.
2022 is different though. He has a new partner (because that helped the other three times), is playing golf (note the mid-90’s), and is spending time with his children and grandchildren. His entire body hurts every time he swings the golf club at age 63 – the effect of living a reckless lifestyle on and off the field. His team may have let him run wild as a player, but ultimately they took his vitality. A fair trade?
Let’s all hope Lawrence Taylor is here to stay, and LT stays in the shadows.
Don’t forget to take a look at my co-writer Ryan’s article all about Lawrence Taylor’s Hall of Fame worthy career here.
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