Fred Taylor retires after 13-year NFL career

Putting an end to his illustrious 13-year NFL career, former Florida Gators running back Fred Taylor signed a one-day contract (picture) with the Jacksonville Jaguars and officially retired from professional football on Friday.

“A lot of times people talk about the Jacksonville market and what the possibilities could have been if I had played at a different market, but the way I see it is, God only gives you what you can handle,” Taylor said. “Me being young not really having a sense of direction, I think if that had happened I probably wouldn’t be here today. So I’m extremely thankful to have been selected to play football here in front of the Jacksonville community for those 11 years. And I say that with all sincerity from the bottom of my heart.”

Jacksonville’s all-time leader in rushing attempts (2,428), yards (11,271) and touchdowns (62), Taylor is also one of just 30 NFL players to have run for more than 10,000 yards in his career. His stat sheet will conclude reading a total of 11,695 rushing yards, 66 rushing touchdowns, 2,384 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns.

“Fred Taylor is a remarkable person who has had a remarkable football career. He made the extraordinary look ordinary every Sunday in the NFL performing against the world’s best players.” – Jaguars GM Gene Smith

After graduating from Glades Central High School in Belle Glade, FL (he was born in Pahokee), Taylor decided to attend the University of Florida and wound up staying for four years. His college career got off to a fast start as he scored eight touchdowns on 873 rushing yards as a true freshman but fell off a bit his second year with just 281 yards on the ground and five scores.

Taylor rebounded in 1996, when Florida went on to win its first national championship, running for 629 yards and five touchdowns in just seven games. He was named a team captain in his final season of 1997 and led by example that year, sparking the team with 1,292 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Taylor was named a first-team All-American and first-team All-Southeastern Conference player for his accomplishments and significantly enhanced his profile for the upcoming draft.

He still holds the Gators’ single-season record for yards per carry (6.0 in 1997) and led the team in rushing in both 1994 and 1997. Taylor has the sixth most attempts in school history (537) and is fourth in both career (3,075) and single-season (1,292) rushing.

Selected with the No. 9 overall pick in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, he would wind up staying with the team for 11 years. He ran for 1,223 yards and 14 touchdowns as a rookie and eclipsed 1,000 yards seven times with the Jaguars. Taylor was often injured during his NFL career and only played more than 14 games in a season four times (2002, 2003, 2006, 2007). He rushed for a career-high 1,572 yards in 2002 but never scored more touchdowns than he did his rookie year.

“I remember Fred Taylor as a shy young man from the University of Florida who really grew into one of the great leaders who really helped this franchise grow into where it is today.” – Jacksonville owner Wayne Weaver

However, his best year came in his 10th NFL season as Taylor led the Jaguars to the No. 5 seed in the 2007 playoffs. He started 15 games that year and ran for 1,202 yards (on a career-high 5.4 yards per carry) with five touchdowns. Taylor had five consecutive games in which he ran for 100 or more yards and earned honors as an All-Pro and Pro Bowl reserve for the first time in his career. He is also one of only three players in NFL history to average at least 4.5 yards per carry over eight seasons (Jim Brown, Barry Sanders).

“There are precious few players that leave you breathless, but you knew that Fred could take it the distance every time he touched the ball.” – “Voice of the Jaguars” Brian Sexton

Taylor was released by Jacksonville in 2009 and quickly signed with the New England Patriots, where he spent the final two years of his career. He only started once in 13 appearances with the team, totaling 424 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

A free agent in 2011, Taylor had all but decided to retire; however, he chose to keep his options open in case a team was interested in bringing him on after the lockout was over. He finally decided to hang up his cleats over the summer and made it official by signing a one-day contract on Friday with the team that originally drafted him.

“One of the good things about retiring from the NFL is it doesn’t end with a period. This is just a comma,” Taylor said. “There will be more of me to go around, and I can’t wait to get back in this community and do what’s right.”

A member of both the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame (2008 inductee) and University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame (inducted in 2010 as a “Gator Great”), Taylor will likely receive similar honors from Jacksonville in the near future. His son, Kelvin Taylor, is a high school junior who may wind up following in his father’s footsteps and playing for Florida two season from now.

Photo Credit: Unknown

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TWO BITS: McGriff walks on, Williams signs deal

1 » Gainesville High School quarterback Ryan McGriff has accepted a preferred walk-on offer from Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and will enroll in the University of Florida this summer, according to The Gainesville Sun. The son of former Florida tight end Mark McGriff and grandson of Gator Great and All-American wide receiver (and outfielder) Perry McGriff, Jr., McGriff will be the third person in his family to wear the orange and blue. He told the Sun that Muschamp contacted in just after being hired in December and that former head coach Urban Meyer had not previously offered him the opportunity.

“It’s not a scholarship, but it’s the next best thing for me at my dream school,” he told the paper. “I’ve lived in Gainesville my whole life, so it’s pretty much a dream come true, actually. I’m moving a mile and half from my house. It can’t get any better than that. […] I’ve accepted the fact that I’m not a big-name recruit. As a local kid, I know what it takes to work hard and earn what you get. I have no problem being the scout team quarterback, helping the defense, helping the offense, learning whatever signals, holding. Whatever I can do to help them be a better football team.”

2 » Waived by the Orlando Magic last week, former Florida point guard Jason Williams has signed a one-year deal with the Memphis Grizzlies Williams, who was upset at his lack of playing time this season, will compete to be the back-up PG in Memphis. This is the second time Williams will play for the Grizzlies; he was acquired by them in a trade in 2001 and played there through the 2004-05 season.

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Shane Matthews: “A tough situation for Johnny”

When college football fans think about Florida Gators football in the 1990s, three names in particular come to mind: head coach Steve Spurrier and quarterbacks Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel. A three-time first-team All-SEC selection (1990-92) who finished fifth in the 1991 Heisman Trophy voting as a junior, Matthews set Florida’s career passing yards record, led the SEC in passing for three consecutive years and led the Gators to their first official SEC Championship.

Finishing his college career 9,287 yards and 74 touchdowns, Matthews moved on to the NFL where he played for 14 seasons as mostly a back-up with Chicago, Carolina, Washington, Cincinnati, Buffalo and finally Miami.

Enshrined in the University of Florida’s Athletic Hall of Fame as a Gator Great in 2002, he spoke to us on Tuesday as a precursor to his involvement in the 90’s Gators Celebration benefiting Desire Street Ministries during this all-important weekend in Gainesville, FL (more information below).

Matthews gave us almost 30 minutes of his time; unfortunately, OGGOA experienced some technical difficulties during the interview. Even though 50 percent of the conversation was missed, we were able to recover a portion of it for publication, which you can read below along with some summary answers to our other questions.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You spent 14 years in the NFL, first seeing extensive playing time during your sixth season in 1999 (167-of-275 for 1,645 yards and 10 touchdowns). What did it feel when you were actually given the opportunity to show your stuff?
SHANE MATTHEWS: “The reason I lasted as long as I did in the NFL was because of my mind. I could learn plays in a second, an entire playbook in a day and never have to look at it again. I was only 6’3” 190 lbs. at the most. Didn’t have the arm strength or the size to take a pounding, but when I did get my chance, I had some good games and some good moments, but I also had some bad ones. That just comes with the position. You’re going to play well at times, you’re going to play poorly at times. I enjoyed my 14 years in the NFL. In 14 years, I think I only played in 35 games, so I knew my role on teams – didn’t rock the boat – tried help the other quarterbacks and the coaching staff knew they could count on me.”

AS: With Saturday’s game featuring two of Florida’s greatest coaches, how do you compare and contrast Spurrier and current head coach Urban Meyer?
SM: “Urban and coach Spurrier are a lot alike – extremely strong competitors. However, they run their programs differently. Urban’s a great motivator, kind of runs a tight ship and keeps everybody in line, where coach Spurrier is kind of that laid back southern personality. His practices are more laid back and relaxed by comparison. The biggest thing is, coach Spurrier is an offensive-minded head coach where Urban is a defensive-minded head coach. Both of them have done a tremendous job for the University of Florida.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Shane Matthews…after the break!
Continue Reading » Shane Matthews: “A tough situation for Johnny”

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Peterson, Emrick highlight 2011 Hall of Fame class

Seven former letterwinners, including Gator Greats Mike Peterson (football) and Bob Emrick (men’s basketball) will be inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame 2011 class. The F Club and Gator Boosters, Inc. announced the class on Wednesday, which will receive their honors at the Hall of Fame Banquet on April 8, 2011, in the Holloway Touchdown Terrace at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

According to UF, “inductees are divided into three different categories: Gator Greats, Distinguished Letterwinners and Honorary Letterwinners.” The remainder of the induction class includes Gator Greats Dawn Buth (women’s tennis), Judd Davis (football), Michelle Freeman (women’s track & field), Mimosa McNerney (women’s swimming>, Distinguished Letterwinner Keith Tribble (football), and Honorary Letterwinner Dr. Richard Shaara (team physician).

More about each inductee and their career accomplishments after the jump.
Continue Reading » Peterson, Emrick highlight 2011 Hall of Fame class

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Wilkerson, Taylor inducted into 2010 Hall of Fame

Eight former letterwinners, including Gator Greats Brad Wilkerson (baseball), Fred Taylor (football) and Brian Gay (men’s golf), were inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame on April 9 as members of the 2010 class. The F Club and Gator Boosters, Inc. presented these honors at the Hall of Fame Banquet in the Holloway Touchdown Terrace.

According to UF, “inductees are divided into three different categories: Gator Greats, Distinguished Letterwinners and Honorary Letterwinners.” The remainder of the induction class included Gator Greats Leah Kirklin Anderson (women’s track & field), Jenny Manz Theis (volleyball) and Jason Odom (football) and Distinguished Letterwinners Laurie Burns (women’s golf) and William Freeman (men’s track & field).

More about each inductee and their individual career accomplishments after the jump.
Continue Reading » Wilkerson, Taylor inducted into 2010 Hall of Fame

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