Lawrence Taylor Celebrates his 56th Birthday
He spawned a generation of kids and aspiring football players who wanted to wear No. 56 more than any other number, arguably more than No. 12 way back when for Joe Namath. You didn’t even have to be from New York. If you played Pop Warner football, or high school football, or college football, if you played defense, you wanted 56.
And Wednesday, No. 56 turned 56.
Lawrence Taylor says he is in a better place in life than he has been in a long, long time. A Hall of Fame place. Where he no longer needs to be the madman L.T., because being Lawrence Taylor is good enough.
“I would like to say my life is perfect, but it’s not, but I have a good life,” Lawrence Taylor told The Post. “I am actually enjoying being an elder statesman and doing what I do in life, you know?”
I asked him if it is hard for him to believe he is 56.
“It’s hard to believe that I GOT to 56, yes,” he said, “but I’m here.
“Don’t get me wrong — it hasn’t been an easy road. It’s been a rough road. It’s been a rocky road, it’s been a rough road … and every day I face things that really make you just hesitant about how life is, but one thing I know, I’ll get through it, and I can make it happen. Bad things will happen, but I have a lot of good things that happen in my life.
“I have a LOT in my life to be thankful for.”
All these years later, you still see 56 jerseys in the stands at MetLife Stadium, the stadium that replaced The House That L.T. Built, and you see more than 56 of them.
“Regardless of how they feel about you personally, they respect what you do,” Taylor said.
L.T. wore 98 at North Carolina, but chose 56 when he joined the Giants.
“I thought 56 was an obscure number,” Taylor said. “I wanted something different.”
Center Jim Clack had worn the number, but had retired. When Clack decided to unretire, he wanted his number back, but Giants general manager George Young allowed L.T. to keep 56 because he was certain he would take it to Canton.
L.T. is one of seven players to wear 56 who have Hall of Fame busts, along with Bill Hewitt, Dante Lavelli, Joe Schmidt, Ted Hendricks, Andre Tippett and Chris Doleman.
It took about 56 seconds on the practice field for defensive coordinator Bill Parcells and his boss, Ray Perkins, to recognize that a rare force of nature was now a Giant.
It only seemed like L.T. sacked Ron Jaworski 56 times on his way to 132.5 sacks, not including 9.5 sacks as a rookie before they became an official stat.
His former Giants teammates will tell you L.T. showed up for Sundays without sleep no fewer than 56 times … and raised hell on the field anyway.
It has been documented more than 56 times L.T. lived his life either on the edge or over the edge plenty more than 56 times. He was suspended several times for failing drug tests and in 2011 he pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct involving a 16-year-old.
A day in the life of Lawrence Taylor today no longer sees him playing 56 holes of golf down in Pembroke Pines, Fla.
“That would be a good day, but that was a lot of years ago,” Taylor said. “I don’t play 56 holes. It’s very seldom, unless I’m playing Michael Jordan, do I play 36 holes. I’m an 18-hole man.”
A family man. He and his wife, Lynette, fawn over adopted son Mali, 8. He was ordering dinner for his two sons at Benihana on Wednesday night when I called. On Tuesday, he had himself a blast with some familiar names — Cornelius Bennett, Bruce Smith, Keith Byars, Ray Allen and Penny Hardaway, among others.
“I played golf with about 30 guys,” Taylor said. “We meet every Tuesday, so they threw me a get-together, a party, and I was really surprised. And today, hey, we had to do it all over again.”
Longtime friend and agent Mark Lepselter is hosting a party for No. 56 next Wednesday.
“He is the most settled and at peace with being Lawrence Taylor than I’ve ever seen him, and I’ve known him for 25 years,” Lepselter said. “I’m just so proud of how far he’s come on so many fronts. He’s as loyal a guy as I’ve ever been around. I think more than anything, age has mellowed him, and made him a better guy to be around.”
It would be a nice touch for the NFL to ask him to conduct the coin toss someday … at Super Bowl LVI, of course.
“The No. 1 thing is I love the game,” Taylor said. “I love the game of football, I loved contact, I love what the game has done for me. As I get older, every day I respect and I love how the fans treated me, how the fans treat me. Because at some point in time, it’s all gonna be over. And it’s all about what type of impact did you have on the game? Listen, maybe I’m more mellowed out now than I used to be, but I’m more appreciative of the fans than I used to be.”
Giants fans everywhere will be happy to know their beloved 56 had himself a happy 56th.