Looking For Help
In the spring of 1986, Taylor checked himself into a rehabilitation program for substance abuse. The statement he issued at the time said: "In the past year, due to substance abuse, I have left the road I had hoped to follow both as a player and a public figure." When he emerged from treatment, he went on to have the best season of his career with the Giants, leading them to a Super Bowl victory. But Taylor would lead an on-again, off-again relationship with substance abuse.
Lawrence Taylor's off-the-field problems stirred up controversy when he was nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999. The Washington Post that year reported that some of the thirty-six media members who voted for the Hall of Fame were prepared "to bypass Taylor because of his legal troubles that include drug-related arrests and income tax problems." Taylor didn't help the situation by refusing to apologize about his past. But the guidelines for entrance into the Hall asked voters to consider only on-the-field accomplishments. Taylor was voted in.
Lawrence Taylor gained his reputation by doing things outside the lines. Though quite possibly one of the best linebackers to play the game, he's often referred to in the context of "drug abuse" or "breaking Joe Theisman's leg" (which happened in a now-famous Monday Night Football game). But Taylor is so much more than that. He starred for the New York Giants, setting new standards for how linebackers operated on the field. Taylor brought about the sack statistic, and he dominated the playing field. His personal life was plagued with substance abuse problems, yet because of his behavior off the field, his induction into the Hall of Fame and his reputation is one marked by controversy.