Football legend Jim Taylor, who died at age 83 on Oct. 13, will be buried in Baton Rouge Friday morning. While most fans know of Taylor’s exploits with Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers and LSU before that, few remember his Mississippi connection.
This was before Taylor became NFL deity in Green Bay. This was before he scored the Super Bowl’s first rushing touchdown, long, long before he became the first of Vince Lombardi’s Packers to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
This was even before Taylor, a fullback, shared the LSU backfield with Billy Cannon. Indeed, this was before Jim Taylor was known as Jim Taylor.
This was when “Jimmy” Taylor, as the newspapers referred to him then, played football for the then-Hinds Junior College Eagles in Raymond. This was 1955.
Taylor had been a high school star in Baton Rouge and had signed with LSU. He had played freshman football at LSU but then the first semester ended and Taylor’s grades came out. Taylor hadn’t passed a class.
Gen. Troy Middleton, the LSU president, summoned Taylor to his office, showed him his grades and said, “If you were in my shoes what would you do?”
Taylor responded that he would kick himself out of school.
That’s pretty much what happened. But LSU and its football coach Paul Dietzel had a plan. And it involved what is now Hinds Community College. Dietzel wasn’t about to let Taylor get away for good.
Major League Baseball has Class AAA. Back then, LSU had Hinds.
Durwood Graham, another former Hinds Eagle and LSU Tiger, remembers. “Back then,” Graham says, “LSU called Hinds its farm club.”
Indeed, the same year Taylor came to Hinds from LSU, Graham and the great Earl Leggett were among a group headed to LSU from Hinds. After Taylor’s 1955 season at Hinds, when he also got his grades back in order, they all became teammates again at LSU.
Graham later became a football coach at Hinds and, at 86, remains one of the school’s strongest supporters.
Asked what he remembers about Taylor, he responds, “Most of all, I remember he was tough as hell.”
“He was like a lot of the rest of us in that we were all poor as old yard dogs,” Graham adds. “We didn’t have nothing but football.”
They made the most of it. Hinds was a junior college powerhouse. Graham, a center and linebacker, and Leggett, a tackle, were part of an undefeated 1954 Hinds team that capped off a national championship season by winning the Junior Rose Bowl before a crowd of 62,000 in Pasadena, Calif.
The team Taylor played on the next season had a “down” season. They lost once.
In 1956, it was back to LSU, where Taylor played in the same backfield as Billy Cannon. Taylor, not Cannon, led the SEC in scoring in 1956 and 1957 and made first team All American in 1957.
Said Dietzel of Taylor, “With the ball under his arm, he was the finest football player I’ve ever seen.”
Says Durwood Graham, “I’m gonna tell you this, Jim Taylor attacked the tackler before the tackler attacked him.”
By today’s standards, Taylor wasn’t that big. He stood 6-feet tall and weighed 215 pounds. Rarely if ever, has 215 pounds packed so much power.
“Jimmy would rather run over you than run around you,” Graham says.
Taylor ran over so many people in the NFL he was often compared to the great Jim Brown.
Lombardi, his coach, had his own comparison.
“Jim Brown will give you that leg and then take it away from you,” Lombardi said. “Jim Taylor would give you that leg and then ram it through your chest.”