(NEXSTAR) — They don’t make them like Lawrence Taylor anymore.
A New York Giant from 1981 to 1993, Taylor was a pain for any quarterback, striking fear into opponents with every bone-crushing hit, revamping the linebacker position from read-and-react to pure aggression.
But legal problems clouded his illustrious career. He struggled with drug and alcohol troubles during his career and had numerous run-ins with the law.
Now, the Pro Football Hall of Famer is putting his troubled past to good use.
He co-founded Fore Life Inc., a nonprofit that gives at-risk youth a better shot at success through programs like its Golf Instead of Guns Initiative, which helps teach kids lessons he learned the hard way.
“I’ve been through a lot of troubles,” Taylor said. “It is a different perspective when you can talk to a child and let him know some of your own history. At this point in my life, I’m not ashamed of whatever things that I’ve done. You know, I’ve grown through it. My kids have grown. The organization has grown.”
Taylor was a football giant in more ways than one. In the 1981 NFL Draft, he was the first-round draft pick of the New York Giants and the second player selected overall.
He twice became a Super Bowl champion with the Giants (Super Bowl XXI and XXV), and he was named the NFL’s MVP in 1986, becoming the first defensive player to do so since 1971.
He said the energy of the fans was a big part of those Super Bowl victories. “The fans truly were our 12th man on the field,” he said.
He talked about working with Bill Belichick, a former Giants defensive coordinator who went on to become the New England Patriots’ head coach and winner of six Super Bowls, an NFL record for a head coach.
“It started out as a shotgun wedding, but we grew on each other,” Taylor joked.
Though Taylor has been called one of the greatest defensive players in history, he said there’s more to the game than that.
“Back in our day, I think the players played with reckless abandon. They could, you know. And I loved the fundamentals,” he said. “You had to run, you have to throw, you have to catch, and you gotta hit. And I’m gonna tell you something, I love those fundamentals.”