Tampa, FLA – From the warm confines of a downtown Tampa hotel, the invitees to the NFL Regional Combine Invitational left their Friday evening orientation with a cool breeze of reality provided by an NFL Legend.
The RCI attendees had the privilege of being in the presence of Fred Taylor. Taylor, a ninth-overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, made his name as a running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars over 10 seasons spanning 1998 to 2008. The Florida native was transparent, detailing what it is really like to play in the NFL and what RCI participants should expect Saturday morning during their workout, drills – and beyond.
“This is a job interview. It’s time to get it done,” encouraged Taylor.
The NFL prospects are in place for their two-day job interview, consisting of lifestyle and competition components. The lifestyle component covers player conduct in public, behind closed doors and via their social media accounts.
Amid the silence of the group and with a touch of compassion, Taylor expounded on the seriousness of what the League expects of its players.
“When you make a team, take advantage of that,” stated Taylor. “Take notes. Do all you can to be the best man and player. Teams have to depend on you at crunch time.”
Taylor made it crystal clear that it isn’t just about athletic performance on the gridiron. It’s also about how a player represents the NFL.
The perfect NFL Legend to have the ears of these prospective players, Taylor never got into trouble with the law, nor was he a media hound. Yet, he didn’t paint himself as a saint either.
Taylor talked about passing up opportunities with the NFL to hang out with his “boys.” He was honest about not always doing the right thing to stay healthy and how he fell short at being an all-time great.
He went on to talk about NFL Hall of Famers such as Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson and how he had the opportunity to excel with those Legends, but in his own words, he fell short.
In the eyes of countless NFL fans Taylor is a legend, and despite injuries, he had a great career. As he humbly stood at the podium, he shared that even though the game came easy to him, it was still hard work to succeed in the NFL.
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“When I played, I could wake up in the morning and run a 4.3. I can’t now (laughter),” Taylor chuckled. “Many of you guys probably can’t do that, but hard work will pay off.”
After his presentation, Taylor opened the floor to questions. When asked about his opinion of being a lower draft-pick or an undrafted free agent, his answer was profound.
“You all know this guy, Jewels, Julian Edelman. When he came to the Patriots (New England), he was frustrated,” related Taylor. “He would hop into the car with me and say, ‘I won’t make this team, man.’ I would talk to him about what he had to do, helped motivate him and the story still is being written.”
Edelman was drafted by the Patriots in the seventh-round (232rd-overall) in the 2009 NFL Draft. He transitioned to a wide receiver after being a quarterback at Kent State. Nine years later, the 5-11, 200-pound speedster is a two-time Super Bowl winner and now is on track of becoming a Hall of Famer.
Paying his respects to the NFL Regional Combine, Taylor mentioned how Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen was once in their shoes and he became an All-Pro. Taylor wanted the players to understand the significance of being at the RCI, to appreciate the experience and recognize the privilege as they followed in the path of previous RC pioneers.
“Honor these guys (previous RC attendees) who built this,” Taylor charged the prospects. “Yeah, you were not invited to Indy (NFL Scouting Combine), but the Regional is just as important. This was not around for many guys before you, and they did not have this opportunity. The Regional has only been around for about five years, so be honored to be here.”
The former top first round draft pick stated his path was smoother than the players before him in the conference room. Nevertheless, he admitted that he was fearful. Fearful in the sense of respect and knowing the Jaguars were always looking for a running back to possibly replace him because of his injuries. Still, he persevered and proved his naysayers wrong.
Taylor summed it up by telling the RCI invitees how to approach their journey into the NFL.
“If you are not fearful, you have a sense of entitlement,” he stated bluntly.
The lifestyle portion of the RCI ended; the competition component begins Saturday morning.