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Heart and Soul: Tough Guy Taylor Typified Lombardi's Packers

He was the epitome of the violent runner - a slashing, driving jackhammer who became the first player from Vince Lombardi's legendary Green Bay Packers dynasty of the 1960s to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In an era dominated statistically by another Hall of Fame fullback - Cleveland's Jim Brown - Jim Taylor's bullish, bruising style of play reminded onlookers more of Bronko Nagurski.

"He'd kick you, gouge you, spit at you, whatever it took," New York Giants all-pro middle linebacker Sam Huff once said of Taylor. "He ran hard, and he loved to kick you in the head with those knees."

For Taylor, though, the Packer years weren't all titles and glory. As a second-round draft choice out of LSU in 1958, he suffered through a 1-10-1 season-along with other young Green Bay draftees Dan Currie, Ray Nitschke, and Jerry Kramer - before Saint Vincent rode into town in 1959 to lead the downtrodden Pack to eventual Valhalla.

Green Bay reached the NFL Championship Game in just its second season under the masterful Lombardi. And though it dropped a 17-13 decision to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Packers would win the league crown five of the next seven years, including the first two Super Bowls.

During the early 1960s, the Packers played consecutive title games against the Y.A. Tittle-led Giants. They pummeled New York 37-0 in the 1961 tilt in Green Bay's City Stadium. The following year, Taylor delivered his finest season as a pro, leading the NFL in rushing (the only time in Jim Brown's nine pro seasons that he failed to do so) with 1,474 yards.

"That was an outstanding year for us," Taylor said. "We were 13-1, the best record by any of the Lombardi teams. Everybody stayed healthy, and we really moved the ball. I had 19 rushing touchdowns, which was the record for a while."

Climaxing the 1962 season, Green Bay headed to Yankee Stadium for a classic championship-game rematch with the Giants. The stadium's frozen, rock-hard surface limited Green Bay's vaunted running game, while also grounding New York's Tittle, whose passes fluttered in the wintry, 40 mph winds. The game almost rivaled the famous Green Bay-Dallas Ice Bowl of 1967 for sheer inclemency.

"It was a cold and brutal game," Taylor, now 65, recalled. "The wind blew and it was like 25 below zero [wind chill] almost the whole game. Ice formed around your eyelids and nostrils from condensation when you breathed. I had 31 carries, my all-time career high. I wound up getting my elbow stitched up at halftime and bit my tongue and was bleeding from the mouth. It was really tough. Because the ground was frozen solid, you couldn't cut up the field and you wound up having to run out of bounds. I probably ran out of bounds in that game more than any two or three other games [combined]."

And those who know Taylor know the man would rather square off against the Terminator than step out of bounds. Kramer kicked three field goals - no small feat in the demonic winds - and Taylor scored the only offensive touchdown by either team, cutting back through a gaping hole in the Giants' line from the 7-yard line in the 16-7 victory.

"It was the only play of the game they didn't touch me," an exhausted Taylor said in the locker room afterward. "It was the toughest game of my life."

Some time ago, a writer pieced together a formula to determine pro football's all-time leading non-fumbler. Taylor headed that list with only 34 fumbles in 1,941 career carries, plus another 225 receptions.

Today, living in his hometown of Baton Rouge, La., Taylor is retired and "trying to go further into retirement," he said. He had a construction company for a number of years until a partner died and later was a self-employed owner of some income property.

"I did a lot of charity golf events for 20 to 30 years throughout the country with Joe Perry, Ollie Matson, Hugh McElhenny, and others willing to go and give their time," he said.

Bart Starr, the Packers' Hall of Fame quarterback from the Lombardi years, once summed up the gritty Taylor: "He's our best man...He has never given anything less than his best."

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