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As sports go, football is probably the one with the most faking, gamesmanship and general shithousery associated with its playing. But with all of that play-acting and carrying-on part of its fabric, there rises an opportunity to break the mould.
Writer: Andy Afford
Few sports people fundamentally change the game they play through their ability to explicitly deliver violence. Fewer still end the career of the day’s preeminent player in a single instance. When New York Giants outside linebacker Lawrence Taylor left Washington Redskins quarterback and American Football’s poster boy, Joe Theismann, ‘without a leg to stand on’, whole playbooks were overhauled overnight to combat the speed and power of the then rookie out of the University of North Carolina.
As feared as Taylor was when slaughtering opposition players in the backfield, his life was as equally chaos-making off it. Substance abuse started in his rookie season of 1981/82, with drug-testing only avoided by him obtaining urine samples from team-mates.
In what transpired as a subsequent ‘and the rest of the money I wasted’ dance with the devil, Taylor was said to be burning through thousands of dollars a day on “coke and women”; was once collected from a crack house by his then first wife, Linda; and attended a Giants pre-match team meeting when still handcuffed from the night before. A consequence, according to Taylor, “of some ladies that were trying out some new equipment, but just didn't happen to have the key".
A first positive test for cocaine in 1987 was followed by a second in 1988. A third would have been career-ending and was something he safely negotiated to retirement from the sport in 1993.
But it didn’t stop. Formal drug rehab happened in 1995. Twice. And across three subsequent years he was arrested by a series of undercover cops as he attempted to buy cocaine. By then his house was featuring sheets hung over the windows to mask what amounted to the nefarious goings-on of a drug den. "I saw blow as the only bright spot in my future,” said Taylor, a life-long thrill-seeker, when reflecting on the prospect of his retirement from the NFL.
Arrests in November 2009 (leaving the scene of an accident) and May 2010 (sexual misconduct), the now resident of Pembroke Pines, Florida, was also a victim of domestic violence in 2016 after third wife, Lynette, threw and hit Taylor on the back of the head with “an unknown object”.
Despite everything – and we mean despite everything - the now 63-year-old was an instant inductee to the sport’s Hall of Fame in 1999, was a ten-year Pro Bowl entry, and one of only two defensive players to win the league’s Most Valuable Player award (and the only defensive player to do so by unanimous selection). ‘LT’ – despite-despite-despite everything, still managed to find the time to rewrite how gridiron was played if not handled. Terrifyingly so.
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