Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor is arguably the greatest football player ever. Unfortunately, he is also one of the most troubled.
Taylor was arrested Thursday morning and charged with third degree rape after allegedly assaulting a 16-year-old girl in a New York Holiday Inn. Taylor, 51, was taken into custody in Ramapo, NJ.
The alleged victim in this current case is reportedly a runaway who says a “pimp” (later identified as Rasheed Davis, a 36-year-old parolee) beat her and forced her into a a hotel room, where a “old, husky, bald man with a goatee”—which is believed to be Lawrence Taylor—raped her. He then is said to have paid the victim $300.
At the time of his arrest it was unclear if Taylor knew the girl was underage but Ramapo Chief of Police Peter Brower was quoted as saying, “Ignorance is not an excuse to an individual’s age.”
From 1981 until he retired in 1994, Taylor, who spent his entire career with the New York Giants, was the embodiment of the ultimate player. He is the only three-time recipient of the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and he and Alan Page – the first African-American sworn in as a Minnesota Supreme Court Judge – are the only players in history to be named both Defensive Player of the Year and MVP. Over a 13-year career, Taylor collected 132 ½ sacks, and was a unanimous selection to the NFL’s All-1980’s Team, and he was selected for the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team.
But there were signs in Taylor’s life – at the peak of his stardom – that behind the rugged demeanor of the two-time Super Bowl Champion resided demons that have felled lesser men.
WATCH MSNBC COVERAGE OF LAWRENCE TAYLOR’S ARREST HERE:
Even before he was drafted by the Giants Taylor had already exhibited signs of an out-of-control lifestyle, admitting to the New York Times that while at the University of North Carolina he “was a hoodlum in college, going to frat houses and destroying everything.” When asked about his NFL draft day memories and he conceded he’d drank 41 Coors Lights that day.
Taylor admitted to alcohol used and in just his second season he admitted to drug use. Following the 1985 season legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell broke the story that Taylor was addicted to cocaine and that the outside linebacker had spent time in a rehabilitation center.
He was suspended several times in his career and after his career ended the turmoil increased.
In May of 1996 Taylor was arrested at a celebrity golf tournament in Myrtle Beach, SC for trying to buy $100 worth of crack cocaine from an undercover from an undercover police officer. He received 60 hours of community service, checked into a rehab center and was forced to undergo random drug tests.
He also received three summonses for traffic violations, pleaded guilty to filing false income tax returns, and at one point he was questioned by a state-grand jury about his alleged ties to organized crime.
A company he started, All Pro Products, Inc, went public at $5 a share and tripled in value after just three months. However, the Securities and Exchange Commission later found out that two traders had manipulated the price of the stock, which skyrocketed despite the company losing almost $1 million. Ultimately Taylor lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the deal.
In May of 1998 Taylor’s money woes became clearer. That is when he was arrested for failure to pay child support. He was released shortly, paying the $4,429 in back child support.
In addition to paying $12,000 a year for the care of a daughter, Taylor paid $50,000 a year to his former wife and their three children, and another $12,000 a year for a fifth child.
Taylor was unable to maintain these payments on his diminished salary and eventually the situation worsened. “His current financial situation has deteriorated substantially since his days as a football player,” said his lawyer, Michael T. Melani, years ago. Shortly thereafter Taylor, who did make a brief comeback as an analyst, filed for bankruptcy to prevent foreclosure on his mansion in Upper Saddle River, NJ.
When an athlete is as great as Taylor we tend to look the other way and their employers do the same. Everybody in the Washington Redskins organization – from sainted coach Joe Gibbs on down – knew that defensive end Dexter Manly was illiterate, but as long as he put quarterbacks on their back everything was cool.
The same was true for Taylor. However, his demons roared much louder and red flags were everywhere. In recent years his image has softened with movie appearances (Any Given Sunday with Al Pacino and Jamie Foxx) and even a stint on Dancing with the Stars. But now he has crossed the line and is alleged to have committed a heinous crime. And if it’s true, the law will not get out of his way the same way left tackles did during his career.