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Blitzing Hollywood (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday June 19, 2007 2:13PM; Updated: Thursday July 26, 2007 11:57AM
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By Michael Silver

At home in Weston, Jason, with (from left) Isaiah, Mason, Katina and Zoe, is happy about his reprioritized life.
At home in Weston, Jason, with (from left) Isaiah, Mason, Katina and Zoe, is happy about his reprioritized life.
Robert Seale/SI

The courtship began slowly. Jason and Katina, who lived in Texas at the time, talked on the phone every day for eight months before they went on a date. "She'd call me, and she'd do all the talking," Taylor recalls. "I know she was sitting there thinking, What's the problem with this clown? I was intimidated by her beauty."

The connection grew stronger after the two started dating, and they married in June 2001. The polished, poised, fashionable husband Katina sees now -- the one she teasingly calls "Rico Suave" and who cops to being a metrosexual (not that there's anything wrong with that) -- bears little resemblance to the diffident guy she fell for. "His body language was completely different," she says. "His posture was horrible. He mumbled." Thomas remembers a speech that Taylor gave before his rookie season at a team banquet, a public event that attracts hundreds of fans and sponsors: "Jimmy [Coach Jimmy Johnson] told him to get up and speak, and it was painful. At the end he mumbled, 'Thank you,' and nobody clapped because nobody knew he was finished. The player beside me said, 'Did you understand anything he just said?' I said, 'No. I needed a translator too.' "

Taylor was just as raw on the football field. Homeschooled through high school, he didn't play football until his senior year (under special dispensation for Woodland Hills High in Pittsburgh), after which he attended Akron. Four seasons of playing in relative obscurity for a Mid-American Conference also-ran, plus his lanky physique, made Taylor a dubious pro prospect. Wichard still remembers the dismay he felt when Taylor, a guest at his suburban L.A. home in 1996, stepped on a bathroom scale. "He was 229 pounds," Wichard recalls. "And that was after Thanksgiving dinner."

Wichard, however, had a plan. The man who helped orchestrate Brian Bosworth's transition from NFL bust to B-movie action star believed that Taylor's good looks ultimately might lead to off-the-field opportunities. In the meantime Taylor had to develop into a force on the field, at a time when the ideal defensive end (Reggie White and Bruce Smith, for example) was a 300-pound mauler. Using dietary tricks such as sodium loading, Wichard got Taylor up to 242 for the weigh-in at the Senior Bowl and insisted that his client be used at his regular position, not at linebacker. Taylor, playing end, had two sacks and was named defensive player of the game.

The Dolphins took him in the third round of the '97 draft, and in 11 starts as a rookie Taylor had five sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He had nine sacks the next season but only 2 1/2 in '99. Yet beginning with his breakout season in 2000 (14 1/2 sacks, first-team All-Pro) Taylor has more sacks, 891?2, than any other player in the league over that period. Taylor has returned seven interceptions for TDs, tying former New York Giants end George Martin for the alltime lead among defensive linemen. He could wind up in the Hall of Fame.

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