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LT is the GOAT (but you already knew that)

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Taylor’s legacy still impacts the game

Phoenix Cardinals vs New York Giants
Lawrence Taylor is the greatest Giant of all-time, as voted on by you.

The fear would begin to rise in Jerry Sisemore by Wednesday.

Other NFC East offensive tackles knew the feeling all too well.

Twice a year they would find themselves alone on the edge against the greatest linebacker of his generation — and maybe any other.

Lawrence. Taylor.

”There were many sleepless nights,” Sisemore, the Eagles’ two-time Pro Bowl right tackle, told author Michael Lewis for his 2006 book, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. “You played New York twice a year.

“Toward the middle of the week, something would come over you, and you’d just start sweating.”

The NFL had never seen anything like Lawrence Julius Taylor.

No one had.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Taylor dominated like no pass rusher before or after him. And he revolutionized the linebacker position — and the entire NFL.

”Lawrence Taylor, defensively, has had as big an impact as any player I’ve ever seen,” former Raiders coach and broadcasting legend John Madden once told ESPN. “He changed the way defense is played, the way pass-rushing is played, the way linebackers play and the way offenses block linebackers.”

That impact is just one reason he is the greatest Giant of all-time, as voted on by Big Blue View’s readers.

He was chosen in a landslide (87%) over fellow finalist Eli Manning, who joined Taylor, Frank Gifford and Michael Strahan on the Giants Mount Rushmore after a tournament-style voting competition.

”LT” brought a combination of size, speed and athleticism to the league that terrorized tackles, quarterbacks and opposing coaches. It was no coincidence that sacks became an official NFL statistic after his rookie season.

The evolution of the league took a significant leap forward in 1981. Taylor’s arrival was the reason.

And he was a winner.

Taylor was the heart of the 1986 and 1990 Super Bowl championship teams. And he was the alpha on the Big Blue Wrecking Crew defense that boasted Harry Carson, Leonard Marshall and Carl Banks among others.

Taylor earned the 1986 NFL MVP award, becoming the first defensive player bestowed the honor since Alan Page in 1971. No defender has won it since Taylor.

The 1999 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee registered 20.5 sacks in 1986 and 132.5 from 1982 to 1993. The eight-time All-Pro and 10-time Pro Bowler was the Associated Press’ Defensive Player of the Year in 1981, 1982 and 1986.

He played aggressively. He played hurt. He covered the whole field, sideline to sideline.

Taylor left players, coaches and fans in awe. Even Bill Belichick.

”A player like Lawrence was such a special athlete, but a really special player because of his awareness and instinctiveness,” said Belichick, the Giants’ defensive coordinator under Bill Parcells before winning six Super Bowls as coach of the Patriots, in 2017. “Taylor had the ability, when he stood on the end of the line of scrimmage … he could just tell, it didn’t matter who the person was, or what the play was, or anything else, he could just tell by the look of the opponent on the other side of the line of scrimmage who was going to block him. And that was by how scared they were.”

Instilling fear

The awards and statistics fail to capture the impact Taylor made.

Especially on quarterbacks.

”Intimidation. Lack of confidence. Quick throws. Nervous feet. Concentration lapses. Wanting to know where Lawrence is all the time,” Parcells once said, describing what Taylor did to signal callers.

”I’ve seen quarterbacks look at Lawrence and forget the snap count,” former Giant Beasley Reece once told The New York Times.

In fact, the second overall pick in the 1981 draft out of North Carolina took pleasure in the fear he instilled.

”They come to the line of scrimmage, and the first thing they do is start looking for me,” Taylor once said. “I know, and they know. When they’d find me, they’d start screaming: ‘56 left! 56 left!’”

The Giants leaped from the second-worst scoring defense in 1980 to the third best in Taylor’s first season. By the middle of the decade, the unit was dominant.

Opponents had no choice but to respond.

“We changed our entire blocking scheme because of him,” Sisemore told Lewis for The Blind Side. “We all had to know where LT was, and we all had to go for him. I’m glad that LT was on the left side and I was on the right side so I could play as long as I did.”

Taylor engendered that fear even before the gruesome injury Joe Theismann suffered in 1985 in front of a Monday Night Football national TV audience. The Redskins quarterback endured a compound fracture of his right tibia — with one end of the bone protruding through his skin — and a shattered fibula on a Taylor sack.

Theismann never played again.

”I heard what sounded like a shotgun going off — Pow! Pow! — and felt this excruciating pain. Then I was on the ground,” he told The Washington Post in 2005.

His right leg has been slightly shorter than the left since the injury.

LT’s legacy

Taylor’s legacy remains very much secure.

The linebacker position evolved because of his influence.

Once upon a time, the best played in the middle. Dick Butkus. Mike Singletary. Jack Lambert.

But after Taylor, the power position shifted to the edge. He and the pass rushers who rose in his image no longer needed to be stationed in the middle to impact — or in Taylor’s case, dominate — the game.

He also changed the requirements of the position. Toughness and instincts were no longer enough.

Linebackers needed to be faster and more athletic.

There would be no Derrick Thomas without LT. No Pat Swilling. No DeMarcus Ware.

But of course, there would never be another Taylor.

His influence was so profound that even the position charged to stop elite pass rushers changed.

Once an afterthought compared to running back and receiver, left tackle suddenly became the most valuable and highest-paid position in the game behind only quarterbacks — whose blind sides they protect — and pass rushers — who they are paid to stop.

The league began to rethink the position to prevent Taylor from mangling their quarterbacks and wrecking their seasons.

Left tackles became more athletic, long and powerful to deal with the next-generation skill sets that Taylor boasted.

”In 30 or 40 years, I’m going to take out the tapes and show them to my grandkids, to show them I really played against Lawrence Taylor,” retired Pro Bowl running back Keith Byars told ESPN. ”The greatest.”