Jason Taylor Changes His Skin, Takes on Jets


By Gary Fitzgerald Redskins.com

Two quick steps and Jason Taylor was working his way around Redskins rookie offensive lineman Chad Rinehart.

Another step outside, then a quick step inside, and Rinehart was left blocking air.

Taylor, a six-time Pro Bowl defensive end, was on his way to the quarterback — and a sack.

This was only Redskins practice, of course. But it showcased Taylor's considerable skills as an elite NFL pass rusher.

And as a dancer.

The Redskins acquired Taylor in a trade with the Miami Dolphins on July 20. The trade was completed just eight hours after the Redskins lost DEs Phillip Daniels and Alex Buzbee to season-ending injuries during the team's first day of training camp.

Taylor, long known in NFL circles as one of the best defensive linemen in the game, last off-season crossed over into entertainment, competing on ABC's popular "Dancing with the Stars." On the show, celebrities are paired with professional ballroom dancers in a weekly dance competition.

Taylor was partnered with Edyta Sliwinska on the show. They finished in second place, behind former figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark Ballas.

NFL stars have been frequent invitees to "Dancing with the Stars" over the years. Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith have performed on the show — and Smith won his competition, televised in fall 2006.

Performing the foxtrot, tango and waltz would appear to be awkward for an NFL defensive end, but Taylor's frame is tall and lean at 6-5 and 244 pounds. He moves gracefully, no matter if he's playing football or dancing.

Taylor approached "Dancing With the Stars" with the competitiveness of any professional athlete. He worked out up to nine hours a day, every day, for 3½ months, learning dance steps with Sliwinska and preparing for the show.

The hard work paid off.

"It was a great experience," he said after a recent Redskins practice. "It was a very positive thing that I did."

Now Taylor is back in his chosen profession.

Racking Up the Sacks

Entering his 12th NFL season, Taylor has been limited in training camp as he learns the Redskins' defense. He is expected to start at DE when they open their regular season at the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants on Sept. 4.

Taylor has 117 career sacks, 14th-most in league history. He was named the 2006 AP Defensive Player of the Year after he logged 13.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and two interception-return touchdowns.

And against the Jets, Taylor had 16.5 sacks as a Dolphin — easily the most by any Jets opponent since 1997, which was his rookie season with the 'Fins.

He should help fortify a Redskins pass rush that produced 32 sacks last year.

And yet, every time Taylor rushes the passer, he is using skills acquired from dancing.

"The agility transfers from each sport," he said. "It's the athleticism and the footwork and the balance that I got from dancing — I think that will help me in football.

"Football is more of a power game. Dancing is a lot more core work. It's all finesse and agility, foot-eye coordination and balance. It's eight, nine hours a day of doing aerobics, basically."

Beyond the athleticism, a big part of "Dancing With the Stars" was the competitive spirit of the performers.

"You see a lot of athletes, whether it's Kristi Yamaguchi or [Brazilian race car driver] Hélio Castroneves, do well on the show because I think that competitive mindset helps drive them to be good at dancing," Taylor said.

"Dancing With the Stars" may appear to be a different form of competition, but not to Taylor.

"It's the same," he said. "You're still pushing yourself in your mind. [Learning to dance] is more about your mind than it is your body. You have to teach yourself to dance.

"You're athletic enough to move, but you have to get over the mental hurdles of figuring out what you're doing and pushing yourself through it."

What about trying to impress the judges — and ultimately the viewers who vote to keep dancers on the show?

"You don't really care about that," he said. "Yes, they're going to judge you, but it's made for TV, so they're going to say what they want to say. I mean, I'm not supposed to be a good dancer, so what they say is not going to hurt my feelings."

Crossover Appeal

As runnerup, Taylor proved to be more than a good dancer.

Some thought Yamaguchi may have had an advantage because she was a competitive figure skater. Taylor disagreed.

"People would say, 'Oh, she used to dance on ice,' " he said. "But she had to work as hard as we did. Maybe it came more naturally for her, but she deserved to win. The first day, we knew she was the best dancer out there. We were just trying to catch up."

Taylor said he does not want to dance professionally. Still, dancing has opened doors for him beyond football, as he hoped it would.

When Taylor's football career is over — he is signed with the Redskins for two more years — he wants to pursue a career in Hollywood. He said that competing on "Dancing with the Stars" was part of a plan to help him transition to a career in entertainment.

The show certainly brought Taylor legions of female fans, as evidenced by the occasional "Jason, I love you!" scream during Redskins training camp. He was recently named one of People magazine's "2008 100 Most Beautiful People" as well one of Us Weekly's "TV's New Top 10 Dream Men."

Thanks to football and dancing, Taylor now has a built-in audience of male and female fans.

"There are a lot of people who wouldn't have recognized me before if it weren't for that show — especially women, and of all ages, too," he said.

The limelight on the dance floor has faded, and now Taylor is glad to focus on football again.

"There are a lot of motivations for playing this game," he said. "Some people do it for money or fame, which are all great, but the reason I play is to win. The Redskins organization gives me a great chance to win this year.

"It's football season, so there is no entertainment business going on right now. There is no dancing, except for celebrating big plays."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content