For the brief time that I knew him, I called him Mr. Taylor.
I met him one day last year at a local gym when he plopped his lean frame down in a chair near me and started talking to me as if he had known me for years. He had a letter in his hand and a big grin on his handsome face, and he turned to me and said, “Some guy in Germany wants me to send him my autograph.”
I had no idea who this white-haired fellow was, but right away, I knew there was just something special about him. He handed me the letter and I read it.
I looked at him, not really knowing what to say and then came out with, “Mr. Taylor, are you the Jim Taylor?”
He laughed, and right away he made you feel good.
Here I was talking to Jim Taylor, the LSU All-American and great Green Bay Packer fullback who I knew was a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
I knew this about Taylor because I had followed football all my life, and I had once been a sports writer and sports editor as a newspaperman in my younger days.
One might say Taylor and I were, in a way, contemporaries on this journey called life. The day we met, I was 79 years old; he was 83.
As the days progressed, I would get to know him better. We would talk a lot about football, of course. I would throw him a name of somebody he played with or against, and he would promptly come back with a comment. He had a good memory for a man who for so many seasons had cracked helmets with NFL defensive linemen and linebackers.
The secret of his success?
“I stayed in good shape, and the opposition always knew I would be coming at them hard and that I would be giving them all I had on every play,” he told me.
When I would enter the gym, he would normally be sitting around a table with other gentlemen and see me, and from a distance he would shout, “Come on in and sit down before you fall down!” On one occasion, we took a “selfie” beside a treadmill right after our workout.
He was maybe the friendliest person I have ever met.
Like I say, our friendship was brief. Too brief. He would pass away at age 83 one Saturday in October.
Incidentally, my friend played in the first Super Bowl and scored the first rushing touchdown in the initial event back in 1967 when the Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.
I miss him.
— Stoker lives in Baton Rouge