Jason Taylor collected quarterbacks the way kids collect Pokemon, quickly and in volume. The longtime Miami Dolphins defensive end enters the Hall of Fame later this week, in large part because of the #99 brand he left on the hides of many of the NFL’s greatest players.
Taylor’s 139.5 sacks rank seventh in NFL history. His six fumble returns for touchdowns rank first. He never came close to winning a championship—his teams made the playoffs only five times in his 15-year career—but Taylor made sure that the most famous men in football knew his name.
One of those quarterbacks respected—feared?—Taylor so much, he wrote a letter of recommendation for Taylor’s Hall vote. “Regardless of the situation, Jason came after me with the same reckless abandon on each and every snap, getting to his target often,” Tom Brady wrote earlier this year. “Sure, he was an explosive, athletic player, but it was his fierce tenacity that made him one of the league’s most dominant defenders for 15 seasons, and the reason why we were on high alert any time number 99 was in his pass rush stance.”
That’s high praise for Taylor, and with good reason: at the time Taylor retired, he’d recorded more sacks on Brady, 11.5, than any other defensive player in the game. (Buffalo’s Aaron Schobel has since passed Taylor.) When you’ve got even the G.O.A.T. singing your praises, you’ve lived a fine NFL career.