Jim Taylor – Mentor and Role Model

JIM TAYLOR – Mentor and Role Model

by: Leo Totten

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Jim Taylor, powerful running back for LSU and the Green Bay Packers.  He was my mentor and my role model and I’m sure he probably had no clue.

Jim Taylor Trading Card

Jim Taylor, 1961 Trading Card

I’m sure many of you are too young to remember Jim Taylor, a fierce and powerful fullback, who helped the Packers win 4 NFL titles and the first ever Super Bowl almost 60 years ago. TheAdvocate.com ran a great coverage on his career and story. He was known for his bruising, punishing style of running the ball who would prefer to run over defenders rather than around them.  He was voted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1976 who not only personified the Vince Lombardi “run to daylight” philosophy but for living his life as he played the game – with passion, determination and love for all he did.  He recently passed away at the age of 83.

Jim Taylor and his memorabilia

Jim Taylor- photo courtesy of TheAdvocate.com

Many of you know that I am a huge Green Bay Packer fan but you probably aren’t aware of exactly why. Well, Jim Taylor is the main reason. Way back in the day (early 60’s), I was a puny kid who was very athletic but just really little.  In fact, in 8thgrade, I only weighed 83 pounds!  (I joke that back then, I was so weak, I couldn’t pee a hole in the snow!) 😊

Always being a big fan of football, I remember watching the Packers play on TV and I saw #31 just running over people and seeming to relish the idea of punishing those who had the audacity to try to tackle him.  I was most impressed by his huge, powerful thighs!  After some research, I discovered he had developed the leg development and body build by heavy weight training and weightlifting!  This was all new to me and I wanted to learn more about the man and his methods so I could be big and strong like him too!

He began his love of lifting while at LSU and learned a lot from the methodology and techniques taught by Gayle Hatch and the other strength coaches at LSU at the time. Evidently, they were doing a lot of great stuff in the strength and conditioning field so I tried to learn as much from them as possible.  And for that, I owe Gayle a debt of gratitude. Gayle and I had some awesome conversations while at the Olympics in Athens in 2004 and we talked about Taylor and his work with Gayle.  But, I never actually met Jim Taylor and that is one of my biggest regrets.

In fact, Gayle got me a signed copy of “The Fire Within”, the biography of Jim Taylor! Interestingly, while reading the book, I noticed that Jim’s background growing up was very similar to mine. Another coincidence, I guess.

The Packers teams from the early 60’s that Taylor helped succeed at the highest level, led by Vince Lombardi and his disciplined coaching style, also became the backbone of my personal coaching style.  Tough, disciplined yet compassionate and caring to do the right thing.  In fact, the way the whole Packer organization does business working with the community and the league is a model of excellence and perseverance.

Like I mentioned at the beginning, Jim Taylor was my mentor and role model but he probably had no idea. But my love of lifting and desire to be the best I can be came a lot from him.  It is important to have strong role models and, growing up, that is exactly what I needed.  Jim Taylor provided that and didn’t even know it.  But, for that, I owe him a huge thanks!

So, the moral of the story is this.  As a coach and teacher, remember that you have more influence and effect on your athletes’ lives than you may realize.  The things that you say and do and the actions that you do, will be remembered.  You are much more of a mentor and role model than you may even recognize.  And, hey, there might just be some little boy or girl out there who uses you as motivation and inspiration.  What kind of role model do you want to be?

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