It’s hard to think that a man with four NFL championships, a Super Bowl ring and an NFL MVP title could possibly add another accolade to his résumé, but Jim Taylor has done just that.
The former Baton Rouge High, LSU and Green Bay Packers star was honored as a “Hometown Hall of Famer” by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate on Thursday at his high school alma mater, receiving a plaque that will permanently stand in the halls of Baton Rouge High.
“This is on the level of (my football career), it certainly is,” Taylor said. “I couldn’t imagine it’d be any more wonderful of a day. It’s a great honor to come back and to be a legend here at Baton Rouge High.”
Taylor’s legacy certainly didn’t stop there, as the fullback went on to be a first-team All-American in 1957 at LSU before being drafted in the second round of the 1958 NFL draft by the Packers. The 6-foot, 215-pound bruiser slowly earned more playing time in the Green Bay backfield and went on to franchise records in nearly every rushing category.
Taylor still holds many Packers records, including most rushing touchdowns in a game (four), a season (19) and a career (81), as well as the most consecutive seasons leading the team in rushing (seven). He had a slew of other records tied to his name last nearly 40 years until 2003, and others that still lived as recently as 1991.
The 1962 NFL MVP tacked on the “Hometown Hall of Famer” award — which honors the hometown roots of football’s greatest coaches, players and contributors — to his already decorated history Thursday morning in the Baton Rouge High auditorium.
“Here you mature and develop and move on as an adult and be productive in your life and feel good about it,” Taylor said. “You look in the mirror and say that you’ve had a wonderful life and that you’ve tried to be a good person and be very productive in the field that you pursue.”
Taylor did just that, racking up 8,597 career rushing yards on 2,173 carries, to go with 83 touchdowns, before being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1976.
The journey came full circle Thursday as Taylor accepted his award on the same floor that used to serve as the school’s basketball court, where the young athlete excelled in the sport he called his “first love.” He did so in front of a few familiar faces as well.
Former classmates, friends, coaches and teammates like Bob Petit, Warren Rabb, Paul Dietzel and Skip Bertman were in attendance, reminiscing about Taylor.
“Gosh, he was tough as nails,” said Bertman, a friend of Taylor’s and the former LSU athletic director. “He rarely ever would run out of bounds. He’d spot a defensive back and kind of turn that way. Unlike many other backs, he was a great blocker and a great pass catcher. Nobody had more desire, nobody had more toughness than this guy.”
It’s that desire and passion that made Taylor a success throughout his 10-year pro career, where he never missed a game. Most of his work came under the tutelage of legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi, who Taylor said would be impressed by the ceremony.
“He would be amazed that we achieved and accomplished and got this far in life and this successful because he was wanting us to be perfect,” Taylor said. “He worked on us and drove us and worked us, and that’s why we were so successful in our football on the field. Now as we leave the field, it’s to move on in life and be productive in our lives in the future.”
Now Taylor’s legacy will live on at Baton Rouge High, where the plaque will remain permanently “to serve as an inspiration for the school’s students and athletes.”
BRHS students, faculty and staff attended the ceremony Thursday, as the campus became the 57th school in the country to be an official extension of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I am pleased and honored that Jim Taylor chose Baton Rouge Magnet High School to be the recipient of a piece of the Pro Football Hall of Fame history,” said Brock Richards, program director for Pro Football Hall of Fame Enterprises. “Mr. Taylor did not get into the Hall of Fame solely because of how well he played the game of football, but also how well he played the game of life.”