HE'LL BE MISSED
On Oct. 18, 1987, a Sunday when most NFL players were on strike, Lawrence Taylor played what I consider to be the best game of his career. It was a raw, miserable day in Buffalo, and he was battling with firemen and construction workers and security guards masquerading as NFL players. His stats that day were Taylor-esque—seven tackles, six pressures, two sacks and one forced fumble. The Giants lost 6-3 to the Bills. But what made this effort special was that Taylor played his guts out with all these hacks around him, trying single-handedly to win a game.
Taylor was like the good guy in a professional wrestling match who's getting beaten up while the referee looks the other way. He was mugged by a double team on every one of his 80 plays. Some guy named Rick Schulte was playing offensive line for Buffalo. He brawled with Taylor six times during the game. Officials flagged the Bills seven times for holding Taylor. Funny thing was, LT loved it, and he played this ridiculous game as if it were the most important game of his life. That's because he played every game like that. "I've never seen an effort like it in all my years of football," says the Giants' director of player personnel, Tom Boisture, remembering that day.
Once, as he slowly got up from atop Taylor after a play, Schulte ground his knee between the bars of Taylor's face mask, almost breaking LT's nose. "But I got him back good for that," Taylor said afterward. "Later in the game, I tore in, ran over him, took my fist and drove it right into his throat. Then I rubbed it in. I said, 'How do you like that, sucker?' That was fun."
When the game was over, Taylor approached Schulte, who braced for another shoving match. LT scowled. "Hey, you cheap bastard," he said. Then he smiled. "Good game."
"Th-th-thanks," Schulte said. "It was an honor to play against you."
On Sunday, following the Raider-Eagle game in Philadelphia, I walked up to running back Keith Byars in the Philadelphia locker room and told him the bad news about Taylor. LT had ruptured his right Achilles tendon against the Packers at Giants Stadium. If Taylor sticks to his previously announced plan to retire after the 1992 season, the man who revolutionized the linebacker position during his 12 years in New York will not play in another NFL game.
Byars has a fractured right hand, and he cringed when I shook it. "I could be on injured reserve right now with this," he said, holding up the hand. "But Lawrence Taylor inspired me with how he always played hurt, and there's no way I'm going on IR. Plus, I wanted to block him in two weeks when we played."
Byars, who was used as the help-blocker on Taylor whenever the Eagles played the Giants, had some classic battles with LT. "I treasure our games," he said. "I'm really going to do this: In 30 or 40 years, I'm going to take out the tapes and show them to my kids and grandkids, to show them I really played against Lawrence Taylor, the greatest."
"What will you tell them?" I asked.