Saturday, January 22, 2011
Taylor devotes season to No. 1 advocate
By Tim Graham
New York Jets outside linebacker Jason Taylor is returning to his hometown with a single victory separating the 14-year veteran from his first Super Bowl.
ESPN.com senior writer Tom Friend takes a look back at how Taylor's journey began with a leap of faith in a man he barely knew, a man who became his father figure and confidant.
Taylor has dedicated his season to agent Gary Wichard, who took a raw prospect from the University of Akron and molded him into an NFL and entertainment commodity. Wichard convinced Taylor's mother it was OK for him to leave Pittsburgh and stay with Wichard's family in California to get ready for the draft.
The Miami Dolphins drafted Taylor in the third round. He went to six Pro Bowls, but never advanced past the divisional playoff round.
While Taylor has been getting closer to a achieving his professional dream -- the Jets will go to the Super Bowl if they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night -- Wichard has been trying to cope with personal and professional anguish.
The NFL Players Association suspended Wichard nine months for improper contact with North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin. Wichard has throat surgery and gall bladder surgery and had been battling an undisclosed illness.
"What we're doing right now with the Jets is for him," Taylor said. "Us winning, it's keeping me going at a tough time. When he told me about his health issue, that was probably the toughest thing I've had to hear and deal with that I can remember. You don't know what to do, you don't know what to say.
"If it wasn't for Gary, no way in hell would I have ever thought about signing with the Jets. So prior to the situation he's in now, going to the Super Bowl would've been a great ride for all of us, and a great way to cap out a career, and what we've always tried to get done. But now in light of what he's dealing with now. I mean, you hate to say it, it would mean so much to get to that game and win it, and there's nothing I want more in this world than to win a Super Bowl and have Gary still be here with us at that point."