With 31 days left until the start of the NFL season, our countdown to the big day continues.
Over the course of the next 31 days we focus on the number that represents the days remaining … and for today we take a look number 31.
And today we move on to #31 – a number that’s been associated for decades with none other than Jim Taylor, though there have been some others who have garnered the respect of Packers fans through the years … consider Gerry Ellis, George Teague and Al Harris.
Currently, the number is being worn by Davon House.
But today for number 31 we look at none other than Jim Taylor, that bruising fullback who would have rather run over defenders than go around them – though he did both.
He was the Packers all-time rusher until he was surpassed in 2009 by Ahman Green.
Not only was Taylor a wrecking ball on the field, it was his style of play that helped the Packers win a slew of championships in the 1960s.
Once again we allow John Maxymuk, the author of “Packers by the Numbers: Jersey Numbers and the Players Who Wore them,” to take us back about 50 years to examine Taylor’s effect on those teams and the future of the franchise..
Here is how Maxymuk describes Jim Taylor:
Dick Schaap wrote so many articles and books about and with the 1960s Packers that he was practically an honorary teammate. A Saturday Event Post article he wrote about Jim Taylor struck a sour note, though. Sarcastically entitled “Genius at Green Bay,” the
perspective on the piece was that Taylor was living proof that you didn’t have to be very bright to play football. While Schaap may have meant nothing mean-spirited in writing it – Taylor was called “Doody Bird” by his teammates, was known for engaging in double-talk and malaprops, and was often the butt of their jokes – it seems jarringly cruel when read today.
Besides, teammate Henry Jordan probably had a more astute view when he said of Taylor that, “he liked to give the impression he was a rough, tough country boy and mumbled a lot, but if you got him talking finances he came out loud and clear.” He may have lacked academic aptitude, but Jim turned out to be very successful businessman after his career ended.
On the field, he was respected by teammate and opponent alike. Ray Nitschke said of him, “Taylor was in a class by himself. In 15 years with the pros, he’s one of the toughest men I ever played against – and we were on the same team. He’d hurt you when you’d tackle him. He was as hard as a piece of granite. He had such strong legs.”
Colts guard Jim Parker, Colts tight end John Mackey, and Cowboy tackle Bob Lilly all rated him among the top 10 players they ever saw. Sam Huff and Merlin Olsen both ranked him the second toughest player they ever played against. Ever-tactful Norm Van Brocklin put it crudely, but succinctly, “Taylor is tougher than Japanese arithmetic.”
When he finished his career with 8,597 yards rushing – all but 390 attained in his nine years in Green Bay – he was third all-time in the NFL behind Jim Brown and Joe Perry (counting Perry’s AAFC numbers). His numbers stood for four decades as the Packers leading rusher. He ran for over 1,000 yards five years in a row and was the only man aside from Jim Brown to win a rushing championship during Brown’s career. His league-leading totals of 1,474 rushing yards and 19 TDs in 1962 led to him being awarded the MVP for the year. He rarely fumbled, became a dependable receiver, and was a capable blocker as well. It’s no wonder that he was the first of Lombardi’s Packers elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976.
Taylor was intensely competitive and felt a special rivalry with Jim Brown. In the handful of times they played against each other, Taylor almost always gained more yards and scored more touchdowns. Of more importance, the Packers won each game. By consensus, Brown was the greatest running back of all time. He had size, strength, great speed, and shifty moves. His special tool was a powerful straight arm that he wielded to push tacklers away. Taylor, in contrast, was smaller, did not have great speed, and did not rely on shifty moves He was extremely strong (he was one of the first players to seriously lift weights), followed his blocks perfectly and ran over anyone in his way. Coach George Allen said of his running that, “He ran with his elbows almost as much as his legs. He’d lower his shoulders and swing his forearm out in front of him and flail away with his elbows and hurt people as he ran through them.”
Taylor himself sums up his career simply, “I was just a player. I enjoyed football. I enjoyed contact.”
Taylor’s greatest moment was the 1962 title game against Huff and the Giants in Yankee Stadium. The Packers were 13-1, first in the league in points scored and fewest points allowed; they beat both the Bears and the Eagles 49-0 that year, but the Lions had displayed some chinks in their armor on Thanksgiving, beating Green Bay handily, 26-14. The Giants were no slouches either. They finished 12-2, second in points scored and fourth in points allowed. In addition, the Giants were fired up about being embarrassed 37-0 in the previous year’s title game by Green Bay.
It was bitterly cold that day with the temperature 20 degrees at game time and winds gusting to 40 mph. Some players who also played in the Ice Bowl, including Ray Nitschke, considered the conditions in the 1962 game even tougher. The ground was icy, hard, sharp, and inflicted pain anytime someone was tackled. The wind negated the Giants’ vaunted passing offense, and this became a game fought in the trenches.
Taylor was the workhorse, carrying the ball 31 times for 85 yards, and the Giants, led by Huff, gang-tackled him each time, often getting in some cheap shots after the play was dead. Jimmy needed stitches in his elbow, bit his tongue and was spitting blood the whole game. After the game, according to announcer Ray Scott, Taylor’s body was black and blue and yellow and purple, a complete mess.
In the second quarter, he scored a touchdown from the seven yard line on the only play he wasn’t tackled all game. At the half the Packers led 10-0, meaning they had played six championship quarters agains the Giants in 1961-62 and had outscored them 47-0.
The Giants finally got on the boat in the third quarter by blocking a Packer punt and falling on the ball in the end zone, but they never did score on the Green Bay defense. With Jerry Kramer kicking three of five field goals, the final score was 16-7 and the Packers were two-time champs. Sam Huff was forced to concede that the Packers were “36 tough s.o.b.s.”
Of the 36, Jimmy Taylor was the toughest.
Here are Jim Taylor’s career statistics:
Here is a list of all the Packers players who have worn #31: