Miami Dolphins legend Jason Taylor is one of the NFL’s most decorated players, but he has a lot more than his professional accolades to be proud of.
By Mariana Rodrigues
Looking at him now, it is hard to imagine Jason Taylor, 41, as a 15-year-old kid from Pittsburgh who was once told he was too skinny for football – “a number 2 pencil only 160 pounds on an already 6-foot-2 frame,” remembers Taylor.
Drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 1997, he became the greatest pass rusher in the National Football League (NFL) franchise’s 50-year history and one of its most feared defenders. After one-year stints with the Washington Redskins (2008) and with the New York Jets (2010), Taylor returned to the Miami Dolphins in 2011 to play his 15th and final NFL season. He played his final game on January 1, 2012 in a win against the New York Jets, culminating 13 years (1997-2007; 2009, 2011) in Miami where he amassed a team record of 131 career sacks.
It was also in Miami where Taylor made a name for himself away from the field. In addition to his work with numerous charitable organizations including the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, United Way, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, First Book, Habitat for Humanity and the Urban League, in 2004, he established the Jason Taylor Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is to support and create programs that facilitate the personal growth and empowerment of South Florida’s children in need by focusing on improved healthcare, education and quality of life.
The Foundation prides itself on creative and innovative programming. Currently, more than 125 middle and high school students participate in the Jason Taylor Reading Room, a comprehensive after-school program launched in 2007 to address literacy challenges among inner city youth. In an effort to also provide a creative outlet for students, the Reading Room includes a weekly spoken word poetry session called the bluapple Poetry Corner. The initiative encourages students to utilize critical literacy skills as a vehicle for self-expression and has rapidly expanded to more than 60 schools across Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties.
Coming up on September 5, the Foundation will kick-off its annual Cool Gear for the School Year back-to-school program, which gives 60 deserving kids $300 to purchase new school clothes at a local Old Navy store with the assistance of a celebrity shopper. Nearly 700 children have participated in the program.
“It’s a joy being able to put a smile on somebody else’s face or impact somebody’s life in a positive way and help them along their road to success,” said Taylor, who credits his mother for his charitable drive. “Success for everybody can be different. It’s not just making it to the NFL.”
Since opening its doors, the Jason Taylor Foundation has contributed nearly $5,000,000 in programs and services to benefit youth. It is this commitment on and off the field that resulted in Taylor being named the 2007 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.
With so many accolades already to his name, you would think that Taylor is ready to sit back and enjoy the ride. But he is just getting started. He has built up a successful television and radio career as an NFL analyst for ESPN, NBC Sports and Sirius/XM NFL Radio, secured a second-place finish on the sixth season of Dancing with the Stars and was named one of PEOPLE Magazine’s 2008 100 Most Beautiful People. He has also partnered with the Invicta Watch Group and CEO Eyal Lalo on a number of charitable ventures and a collection of limited edition watches.
Taylor is a dad to three children with his wife Katina – 13- and 12-year-old sons, who also play football, and a 10-year-old daughter.
At 6-foot-6, 255 pounds, Taylor’s achievements are as impressive as his stature. A legend both on and off the field, he has made a lasting impact on South Florida and we are sure this is just the beginning.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After more than 10 years as a communications executive in New York and Paris, Mariana is now thawing in the warm, sunny sands of Miami. Originally from São Paulo, Brazil, her love for exploring and writing has taken her all over the world. Curious by nature, she is always on the lookout for her next story.