GREEN BAY, Wis. — It’s been 46 years since Jim Taylor last stepped on the field in a Green Bay Packers uniform. Though the legendary and bruising fullback is far removed from plowing over oncoming defenders on game days, the 77-year-old is still running strong.
He was participating in full marathons in his 50s and golfing in charity events almost nonstop. Taylor was engaged in the type of healthy, active lifestyle that matches what some current professional athletes a third of his age are doing in their offseasons.
It comes as little surprise to anyone familiar with his football career that Taylor isn’t the type to voluntarily slow down. A stroke in 2004, however, forced him to take a step back.
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He traveled to Cleveland on three occasions in an effort to correct the rhythm of his heartbeat, and it took nearly six years for him to fully recover, but he is happy to report it’s no longer an issue.
“I’m now completely recovered from that,” Taylor said in a phone interview this week with FOXSportsWisconsin.com.
It’s no laughing matter, but, in an upbeat tone, Taylor spoke candidly about what doctors told him could be required in a future medical appointment.
“I’ll need a defibrillator and pacemaker in 10 years, so I’m on the books to look forward to that,” he said.
But that prospect hasn’t changed his daily approach one bit. He still exercises frequently and travels to Canyon Ranch in Arizona five times every year for long, extended hikes.
“I still push the envelope,” Taylor said. “I’m still active and long to have a high quality of life and maintain some fitness level.”
Taylor won’t have to hike far Thursday. In his hometown of Baton Rouge, La., he will have to travel just a few blocks from his house to accept a plaque from the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate Insurance in recognition of being honored as a Hometown Hall of Famer.
It’s the latest in what has been a lifetime of impressive awards and accomplishments for Taylor. He was the 1962 NFL Most Valuable Player, a four-time NFL champion and one-time Super Bowl champion. He was the first player from the Vince Lombardi era to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and still holds Packers all-time records for rushing touchdowns in a career (81) and in a single season (19 in his 1962 MVP year).
“It’s things that I look back on and cherish,” Taylor said. “I feel very good about my achievements in a team concept that Lombardi had on both sides of the ball. He was a great motivator and leader. I was just a gamer and a player who was very intense.”
Somewhat surprisingly, Taylor’s intense style on the field didn’t result in any lingering, long-term problems.
“I didn’t have any concussions, at least to my knowledge,” Taylor said. “No surgeries or procedures, and there were no after effects.”
Taylor, like nearly all former NFL players, was contacted about joining a lawsuit against the league, but he declined to join in. Still, he would like to get a chance to explain his views on the league’s increased safety regulations to commissioner Roger Goodell and the 32 team owners.
“I’d like to get in front of them and visit with them, tell them they need to be on top of it to prevent some of the foul play,” Taylor said. “I liked to play aggressive, but not the cheap shots or piling on or hitting low. Officials need to be on top of the game.
“Put one or two more officials out there to prevent some of the foul play, if they want to do that. But it’s still a game of contact. There shouldn’t be so much of a misunderstanding of how the game should be played.”
Though Taylor hasn’t gotten that face-to-face meeting with Goodell and the owners (and likely never will), his impact post-football has been through meaningful charity work.
“I didn’t have to take a job,” Taylor said. “I had some other investments and things where I could give back with my time. I’ve been to thousands of different functions all over this country.