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Call it catch-as-catch-can
Robert H. Boyle
November 15, 1971
Otis Taylor of the Kansas City Chiefs (89) has no peer at receiving a football—left-handed, right-handed or with his hands behind his back
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November 15, 1971

Call It Catch-as-catch-can

Otis Taylor of the Kansas City Chiefs (89) has no peer at receiving a football—left-handed, right-handed or with his hands behind his back

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Quick to pick up defenses, Taylor is, according to Dawson, very adept at finding the open areas in a zone. "He has such great reflexes and great hands," Dawson says, "but it isn't the hands—it's the head."

How Taylor catches a ball depends on where it is thrown. "If the ball is away from me," he says, "I run with the drive of a trackman, and then at the last second I put my hands out. If you run with your hands out, you'll never get it." Should a defensive back stay right with him, Taylor may suddenly stop to jump for the ball, reasoning that the back has too much momentum to brake with him. Taylor did this against the Steelers, only to drop the ball when he fell to the ground. "I was disheartened," he says, "but there's never a ball game that I've played where I don't think later about what I could have done better."

For Taylor life begins anew every time he receives a pass. "I just don't settle for the catch," he says. "I love to run. I don't know what's going to happen. I go on instinct. I'll jump, I'll skip, I'll dance sideways, anything to get the ball farther downfield." He rather enjoys the challenge of his matchups against the better defensive backs, such as Willie Brown of the Raiders. In a way, Taylor even relishes a good "pop" from an opponent; he tries to learn from them. Recalling a game against the Rams, he says, "I came off the line with just a glide, and the left linebacker, No. 32 [ Jack Pardee], slapped me with an elbow, and he said, 'You better know what you're doing.' And I said to myself, 'Lord, I'd better learn,' and I'm glad he gave me that pop. It was a teaching pop."

Is there nothing then that can stop Taylor? Pat Fischer, who has been described as speaking of Taylor in "a low, awed voice that would have been appropriate for a scientist who has just been given a glimpse of the ultimate weapon," said he couldn't have been any closer when Taylor made his game-winning catch. Playing him tight won't work and neither will playing him loose. According to Willie Mitchell, an ex-defensive back for the Chiefs, there is only one way to beat his friend. Mitchell was sitting in Taylor's Kansas City nightclub, the Flanker's Lounge, one evening last week when he gave voice to his scheme. "I'd tell you what I'd do," he said, leaning back with a leer. "I'd bite him, and I'd get down in there and twist his leg." The din from the band almost drowned out Mitchell's catalog of horrors. "I'd say mean things about his momma," Mitchell went on. "And I'd spit, really spit, right on his face. I'd try to get him so angry he'd fight and get thrown out of the game. That's the only way to beat Otis Taylor."

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