If Rookie running back Fred Taylor (left) wanted to watch a videotape of his highlights as a pro, he might have to spend the better part of an afternoon in front of a television. In his first play after replacing injured starter James Stewart in Week 3, Taylor reversed field and ran 52 yards for a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens. On the opening play against the Miami Dolphins on Oct. 12, Taylor used his 4.35 speed to dart 77 yards for a score. During the fourth quarter in Week 11, he scampered 70 yards for the winning touchdown as the Jaguars beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 29-24. "Sometimes this whole season is a shock to me," says Taylor, the former Florida star who was the ninth pick in last April's draft. "I see some of the things I've done, and I ask myself, How did I do that?"
The answer is usually right in front of him. Leading the way on most of Taylor's carries has been second-year fullback Daimon Shelton, a six-foot, 250-pound block of granite who is sort of a glorified guard lining up in the backfield. Says Jacksonville coach Tom Coughlin, "Daimon has been a key in the emergence of our running game."
"I understand my role on this team," says Shelton, a sixth-round pick out of Sacramento State in 1997 whose nickname is Rock. "I could never be Fred Taylor, but I take a lot of pride in helping spring him. I enjoy hitting linebackers." Indeed, Shelton once described the perfect block as feeling "like an orgasm."
Thanks in part to Shelton's blocking, Taylor is vying for rookie of the year honors. He leads all rookies with 1,005 yards rushing; he's tied for second in the league in touchdowns with 14; and his 5.0-yard average is second to the Denver Broncos' Terrell Davis. Taylor set the Jaguars' single-season rushing record in Sunday's 37-22 win over the Detroit Lions, while running for a team-record 183 yards.
Shelton, meanwhile, didn't carry the ball in Jacksonville's first five games. He then jokingly petitioned the coaches for just one opportunity per game. He got that—and more—when injuries to Taylor and Tavian Banks left him as the primary back in a Oct. 18 meeting with the Buffalo Bills. In that game Shelton carried 13 times for 44 yards and caught two passes for 17 yards. The next week, however, he went back to his job as a VIP escort. "We're a team, our success comes from working together," says Shelton. "If he had to, Fred would throw a block for me. At least, I'm pretty sure he would."