The football world today celebrates the life and career of Charley Taylor, a halfback-turned-receiver who, at the time of his retirement, topped the National Football League’s all-time list for receptions career and a player who was proud to excel in all facets of his adopted position.
A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 1984, Taylor died on Saturday. He was 80 years old.
“As a kid who loved football, I watched the Washington teams of the 1970s compete at a high level and quickly became a fan of the player wearing number 42. He seemed to make everything so easy,” said Jim Porter, president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Charley was never a man of many words, and in his brief entrenchment speech he didn’t say much about the game. He mentioned God several times. He thanked God for his good fortune and expressed his deep belief in God,” he continued. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Charley’s wife, Pat, and the entire family and are reassured that their faith will help them get through this difficult time.”
Charles Robert Taylor was born in Grand Prairie, Texas on September 28, 1941. He earned all-state honors in high school football and athletics and received scholarship offers from Arizona State and the University of Southern California.
Taylor opted, at first, for USC, until arriving on campus and finding himself – according to various interviews – either 13th or 16th on the Trojans depth chart at running back. He called Arizona State head coach Frank Kush and asked, “Is this deal still good?”
Kush has never regretted saying yes.
Taylor was twice named to the All-Western Athletic Conference and All-America teams. In his three college seasons, he gained 1,995 scrimmage yards, averaging nearly 6 yards per carry, and scored 25 touchdowns. When Arizona State launched its Sports Hall of Fame in 1975, he was in the inaugural class.
“He had these big, classic, smooth moves that you just don’t teach,” Kush said in an interview with NFL Films. “I’m still very much of a belief that he should be one of the greatest of all time. He had it all. He was poetry on a football pitch.
Both professional football leagues saw huge potential in Taylor, who was drafted No. 3 overall in the 1964 NFL Draft by Washington and No. 9 overall by the Houston Oilers in the American Football League . However, one person who was not so certain of Taylor’s future was Otto Graham. As coach of the 1964 College All-Star team, he called Taylor lazy – despite earning MVP honors in the loss to the defending NFL champion Bears. Chicago later this week – and too quiet.
“I’m just not cut out for making a lot of noise,” Taylor told The Associated Press when asked for an answer. “I just play every game the best I can and then rush back to huddle.”
He and Graham would not cross paths again until a few years later.
Taylor immediately caused a stir in Washington, rushing for 1,569 yards and accounting for 10 touchdowns. His 199 carries for 755 yards and 53 receptions — a new NFL record for running backs — for 814 yards marked the first time in 20 seasons that a freshman ranked in the Top 10 in both categories. distance. His debut earned him the league’s 1964 Rookie of the Year award, ahead of fellow future Hall of Famers Paul Krause and Paul Warfield, and the first of his eight Pro Bowl invitations.
“Charley Taylor is probably the greatest natural football player I’ve ever seen,” then-Washington coach Bill McPeek told The Associated Press that year. “He combines power, speed and fine movements in the open field.”
Taylor had another solid season in 1965, earning his second-place finish in the Pro Bowl, but the team failed to set a winning record for the 10th consecutive season. Mired in mediocrity, Washington made another coaching change, ditching McPeek and bringing in Graham. The Hall of Fame quarterback installed a different offensive scheme and made several personnel moves, one that changed history for Taylor and the NFL.
Midway through a game, midway through the 1966 season, Graham moved Taylor to a split end. For several games, Taylor played both running back and wide receiver before the change became permanent.
Initially, Taylor wasn’t a fan of the move, but a teammate helped make the transition smoother.
“I had Bobby Mitchell there to help me out,” he told an interviewer. At another, he said he also spoke frequently with Lenny Moore, the Baltimore Colts’ third back. “I exhausted these guys” with questions, Taylor said.
Mitchell, who joined Washington’s front office after his own Hall of Fame career, was impressed with how Taylor has adapted to his new position.
“We struggled to exploit his speed and movement, so in the backfield he was getting ahead of his linemen. … It became pretty obvious straight away that he would be better off on the outside, where he could be free and run free and grab the ball and move,” Mitchell said. “I don’t know how many people realize this, but it’s a difficult (change of position). Once he figured it out, he became the best at it.
With Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen at the helm, Washington quickly rose to the top of the league on offense, especially his passing game.
“Soon we had a lot of fun,” said Taylor, who recalls performing impromptu plays drawn on the indoor ground of DC Stadium.
Taylor led the NFL in receptions in 1966 (72 for 1,119 yards and 12 touchdowns) and again in 1967 (70 for 990 yards and nine touchdowns) in an All-Pro season.
Injuries diminished his productivity in 1970 and 1971, but Taylor returned to form in 1972 as Washington finally became an NFC contender under Hall of Fame coach George Allen. He averaged 54 catches per season from 1972 to 1975 and was named to the Pro Bowl every year. He scored two touchdowns in a 26-3 thrashing of the Cowboys in the 1972 NFC Championship Game as Washington reached Super Bowl VII.
Taylor retired after the 1977 season with an NFL-leading 649 career receptions for 9,110 yards (14.0 per catch) and 79 touchdowns. Overall, he had 10,598 scrimmage yards and 90 touchdowns. He finished in the Top 10 nine times in receptions and six times in the Top 10 in receiving yards.
He was named to the 1960s NFL All-Decade Team.
“I could catch the ball, I could run with the ball and I could also block,” Taylor said as he assessed his strengths. “I think you find very few guys in the league who could do those three things.”
Opponents agreed, especially on the last point.
“Charley was one of the best all-around receivers – size, speed and agility. But what I remember most about him is his ability to block the pitch,” Hall of Fame defensive back Lem said. Barney at The Sporting News in 1999, when the magazine named Taylor one of “Football’s 100 Greatest Players” (#85).For the same publication, Hall of Famer Willie Brown ranked Taylor at #3 of the best blocking receivers in professional football.
“He was a very complete receiver,” Barney said. “A very large and complete receiver.”
Taylor regularly presented mismatch issues for opposing linebackers and defensive backs either too slow or two small to cope with his 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame and arsenal of refined moves as a carry-all. ball.
“I felt being a ball carrier and being able to run across the line and make guys miss helped me in the long run because I was getting the ball on the cornerback who wasn’t used to coping. too many ball carriers on the pitch,” he said. .
More injuries did Taylor what few defenders could muster; they closed it. He retired before training camp opened for the 1978 season.
“I always said when other guys could do the job as well or better, Charley Taylor would stand aside,” he said during the announcement.
He remained in Washington for another 15 years, joining Mitchell as a scout under new general manager Bobby Beathard. When Joe Gibbs became head coach in 1981, he chose Taylor as his receivers coach. He helped Art Monk break his team records.
Taylor summed up his career this way: “My strong point was making a short pass and turning it into 65 yards.”
It was something he did frequently, often resulting in a touchdown which, in turn, ended in a long end zone celebration.
“Seeing Taylor in the end zone with her hands raised above her head for a period of 30 seconds to a minute – it was kind of a gesture that ‘I did everything I could do with the ball . I can’t do anything else with it,” Mitchell told NFL Films.
Of the celebrations, Taylor said: “After a 50-yard run or a 50-yard pass, it was my way of saying, ‘I rest my case’.”
Taylor made his case for 13 seasons in the National Football League. His legacy will be cherished forever at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Here are some reactions from other people around the game:
We lost a legend
RIP Charley Taylor
— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) February 19, 2022
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Taylor family 💛 pic.twitter.com/847GLRIjLX
— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) February 19, 2022
My condolences to the family of Charley Taylor. A versatile receiver. Great respect.
— Harold Carmichael (@lookitin) February 20, 2022
I’m old enough to remember Charlie Taylor as an all-time great. His skill set was equal to any catcher to play the game!! @Commanders @ProFootballHOF @NFLAlumni @NFLonCBS @NFL RIP https://t.co/zZv8gBYMgX
—James Lofton (@lofton80) February 20, 2022