In his Hall of Fame speech, Jason Taylor spent almost 32 minutes thanking everyone from family to teammates to coaches to friends. He even thanked opponents, including Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, as well as Bill Belichick.
“I never had the pleasure of playing for him,” Taylor, a first-ballot inductee, said of the Patriots coach, “but I had the pleasure of facing his teams for twice a year for more than a decade. Bill, you put a target on my back, my front, my sides, and as a result of that, I never felt more respected.”
Taylor also thanked all his owners, including Washington’s Dan Snyder, for whom Taylor played in 2008.
“I had a good talk with Dan last night,” said Taylor, who made 131 of his 139.5 sacks during his 13 years in Miami. “Thank you for the opportunity to come to Washington. I know I didn’t give you much — 2.5 sacks. Stole a lot of money from you, but I appreciate it. I’m just being honest. We talked about this night at Jerry’s party. Redskins owner at the Cowboys party, me feeling awkward because I stole so much money from Dan. But he was very gracious and Dan Snyder thank you so much for what you did for me and my family and for the opportunities.”
Taylor, who became emotional several times, especially when talking about his family. played at the University of Akron, 20 miles from Canton, which became the theme of his speech.
“I honestly can’t believe I’m here,” Taylor said. “In 1992, I was at the University of Akron, just 20 miles north of here. Twenty miles away. Might as well have been a million. Back then, I couldn’t fathom that over the next two decades, step by step, I’d travel those 20 miles to be on this stage, wearing this jacket. Twenty years to travel 20 miles, but it was worth every bit of it.”
He came full circle in ending his speech, saying his one regret was not appreciating the journey enough.
“I challenge each of you to enjoy your journey,” Taylor said. “Appreciate those around you and articulate that appreciation. Embrace your successes and your failures. Understand that each moment is a unique step on your path that you can never get back. Wonderful experiences become distant memories, so fast. Too fast. I wish I’d had the gratitude then that I have now, and said some of those heartfelt things I’ve said today before today.”