Jason Taylor, the Dolphins icon who spent 13 of his great 15-year career in Miami, is now an NFL immortal.
Taylor was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday, reaching the pinnacle of a sport that he dominated for more than a decade.
Taylor not only got in, he did so in his first year of eligibility — to the surprise of many, himself included.
Shortly after the announcement Saturday, which came during the NFL Honors award show, Taylor had a private moment with fellow 2017 inductee Terrell Davis, the Broncos’ great running back.
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“You just seem so cool with this,” Davis told Taylor.
The defensive end’s response? “I said I’m not cool. I’m in shock. It’s like I’ve seen a ghost.
Davis and Taylor are two of seven members of the Class of 2017. The others: running back LaDainian Tomlinson, quarterback Kurt Warner, kicker Morten Andersen, safety Kenny Easley and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
The group will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 5.
Taylor was one of 15 finalists, a group that the 48 selectors — comprised of media members from around the country — debated for much of Saturday.
Meanwhile, Taylor waited. And waited. He spent the afternoon in his Houston hotel room with his two sons and his sister Joy, a host for Fox Sports 1, Dolphins CEO Tom Garfinkel and former Dolphins receiver and current employee Nat Moore.
Taylor knew he would either receive a phone call or a knock on the door from the Hall. A phone call would be bad news. A knock, good.
David Baker, the Hall of Fame’s president, didn’t just knock on Taylor’s door. He nearly pounded it down.
“Are you serious? Are you serious?” Taylor said when he opened the door.
Baker was indeed.
“This makes you one of the 310 best players, coaches or contributors of all time, in the history of this game,” Baker told Taylor.
Taylor will be introduced at the Super Bowl, and on Monday, the Hall will begin measuring for his bust.
“It stunned everybody,” Taylor said. “I couldn’t open the door. I was shaking when I opened the door. I opened it, saw Dave with a big smile on his face. Tears started coming a little bit.”
Taylor continued: “It was a great moment. I just turned around, my two sons are standing there, my sister’s crying, and my two sons were in awe. And I’ve kind of been speechless ever since.”
“Amazing,” Joy Taylor said. “My heart stopped, it was so special, I couldn't be more proud of him and it's so special to be able to have been there with him when he found out.”
The totality of Taylor’s resume was enough to get him into the Hall of Fame on his first try.
Yes, he would have received consideration solely on his 139.5 career sacks.
But Taylor wasn’t a one-dimensional player.
He had eight interceptions (three of which he returned for touchdowns), 55 passes defenses, 48 forced fumbles, 29 fumble recoveries (tied for most in NFL history), three safeties and nine defensive touchdowns.
Reggie White, Bruce Smith and Michael Strahan — Hall of Famers, all — finished their careers with fewer totals than Taylor in all of the aforementioned stats.
There’s more. The third-round pick out of Akron recorded double-digit sacks six times in eight years. He led the league with 18.5 sacks in 2002. He was a four-time team MVP. He was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 and the league’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2007.
Taylor becomes the team’s 10th Hall of Famer, joining coach Don Shula, quarterback Bob Griese, running back Larry Csonka, center Jim Langer, guard Larry Little, linebacker Nick Buoniconti, center Dwight Stephenson, wide receiver Paul Warfield and quarterback Dan Marino.
He is the fifth Dolphin to be elected in his first year of eligibility.
▪ Cameron Wake, who had 11.5 sacks the year after tearing his Achilles tendon, lost out on the Comeback Player of the Year Award to Packers receiver Jordy Nelson. Nelson made a full recovery from a torn ACL to lead the league in receiving touchdowns.
▪ The Cowboys’ Jason Garrett won Coach of the Year. Miami’s Adam Gase was also considered for his 10-6 rookie season.