Jason Taylor will always be known as a great Dolphin and a Jets tormentor. But for one season, the man known as JT donned his trademark uniform No. 99 in green and white rather than aqua and coral provided a strong assist as the Jets and their faithful ventured to within one win of the Super Bowl.
"My initial reaction was a surprise. I didn't think I would get to this point," Taylor said. "There are so many guys that are so deserving and had phenomenal careers. I never stood my career up against the others to compare. I was pleasantly surprised and I'm just enjoying the heck out of the process. It's been really cool and we'll see what happens from this point on.
"As far as my career with the Jets, albeit it was one year, it was the most success I had as a team of my 15 years. I actually ran into Rex [Ryan] and my sons and I were just hanging out, talking and laughing about some of the things we went through and did in New York. It was a really fun ride getting to the playoffs. I really enjoyed the experience playing there, living in the city so it was a very positive year."
Taylor is one of the six players that will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2017 Saturday. He had an outstanding career roaring off the edge out of a two- or three-point stance mostly for the 'Fins and often against the Jets in his 15-year NFL career.
Taylor finished with 233 games and 199 starts and posted some outstanding numbers: 139.5 career sacks, 46 forced fumbles and 29 fumble recoveries, eight interceptions, nine return touchdowns and three safeties. His regular-season sack total is seventh in NFL history, the opponents' fumble recoveries are tied for first, his six fumble-return TDs are the most all-time. Among his awards: six Pro Bowls, three All-Pro first-team berths, the AP Defensive Player of the Year honor in 2006 and the Walter Payton Man of the Year trophy in '07.
"The reason why I'm here to be honest, and I know it's a cop-out answer, it's because of all the guys I played with," Taylor said. "For 15 years made my job easy. Even in New York, so many guys take double teams and change positions that allowed me to have success. I think the biggest thing that I took a lot of pride in throughout my career was trying to be disruptive defensively and flipping games — whether it be a sack that changes the series or a strip-sack that leads to better field position or even score a touchdown. The game-changing plays is what I always took pride in and shot for."
Despite all the stats and hardware, he was on the move before his 12th pro season as Miami traded him to Washington before the '08 season. The Redskins released him after the year and he returned to the Dolphins on a one-year deal in '09. Then in 2010 he became a free agent and general manager Mike Tannenbaum, head coach Rex Ryan and the Jets came calling.
Taylor's contributions were modest as a five-start OLB in Ryan's 3-4 scheme compared to his monster years with the 'Fins, but he still made any number of big plays:
The 6'6", 244-pounder forever earned a small but favored place in Jets fans' hearts when he stripped Tom Brady at the Jets 25 with four-plus minutes to go. The fumble was recovered by Bryan Thomas and prevented yet another fantastic finish by Brady and the Patriots in the Jets' 28-14 win in their second game in their brand new home, then called New Meadowlands Stadium.
Two games later, JT's recovery of a Marshawn Lynch fumble (forced by Thomas) at the Buffalo 23 set up a short third-quarter TD drive as the Green & White began to run away from the Bills in their 38-14 road win.
The next week, Taylor scored a strip-sack of Brett Favre, two years after his season with the Jets, in the Monday night win over the Vikings.
A split sack late in the overtime period at Cleveland in Game 9 forced a punt and set up the Mark Sanchez-to-Santonio Holmes TD for the 26-20 win.
Taylor had a sack of Chad Henne in Game 3 and recovered his second fumble as a Jet on a Ronnie Brown run in Game 13 against his former team, the Dolphins.
And his last big play was a safety tackle of RB Mewelde Moore with 2:38 to play, the final score in the Jets' 22-17 road win at Pittsburgh.
"Rex and I were talking and that play came up," Taylor said. "We were laughing and joking because he thought I was misaligned. I knew where I needed to be. It was different than what they showed on paper and Rex was laughing about how he was on the sideline yelling. David Harris was yelling and it worked out being a safety."
Taylor's veteran presence then helped guide the Jets to their second consecutive appearance in the AFC Championship Game, this time a return to Heinz Field, where their Super push came up short in the 24-19 loss to the Steelers.
After that, Taylor was released again and returned for one more season in South Florida before calling it a career.
"You put your body of work out there and you step back. You let your work speak for itself," he said. I'm already the happiest person in the world because I got to do what I love for 15 years in three different cities, organizations and fanbases. I loved every bit of it."
Best Images of Taylor During His Stint with the Green & White