Every season, hundreds of rookies, veterans, and even a handful of "retired" players all lay it on the line for a chance to suit up on Sundays. The news of Bobby Taylor's comeback attempt had me thinking of a few other noteworthy players who stepped away from the game only to try for one last Sunday.
For some, like Jamal Anderson, Terrel Davis, etc., the injuries were too much to overcome. For others like Michael Vick, they have no one to blame but themselves. For others, like Brian Piccolo and Kenechi Udezi—grave illnesses forced them away.
This is about those who fought for that second chance, and what happened after.
Yeah, believe it or not, back in December of 1983 Jim Brown was talking comeback at the age of 47. He wanted to keep the rushing title away from Walter Payton, and did an article for Sports Illustrated detailing his comeback attempt with the Raiders.
Obviously it didn't happen, but if it did, it sure would have proved interesting. Athletes such as George Foreman have proven age doesn't mean everything.
Imagine Marcus Allen teamed with Brown...and in a few years, a 50-year-old Brown with Bo Jackson!
The "madman" of the Raiders' glory years of the 70s and 80s, Lyle attempted a comeback in 1990 at the age of 41. Over four years removed from the game, Lyle seemed dead serious at making another run at it now that his life seemed back on track.
Knee injuries and years of abuse took their toll, and Lyle failed in his comeback attempt. Sadly, he was dead two years later due to a brain tumor.
A true rags to riches to rag story, Timmy Smith was drafted in the fifth round of the 1987 draft by the Redskins. Seldom used, he had a mere 29 carries for 126 yards during the regular season, and didn't score a touchdown.
Then, out of nowhere, he set the NFL Super Bowl record with 204 yards in a complete dismantling of the Denver Broncos. The next year, Timmy failed to build off that success, gaining 470 yards and three scores on 155 carries for a terrible 3.0 yards per carry. He was gone the next year.
Then, in 1990, after two seasons away, he finally got that second chance, this time with the Cowboys. Smith only appeared in one game, the season opener.
He only gained six yards on six carries, and never carried the ball in the NFL again.
In addition to Timmy Smith, the 1987 draft's 13th overall pick, Chris Miller, also had a career comeback attempt. Chris played with the Falcons from '87-'93 before moving on to the Rams for '94-'95. Five concussions in 14 months convinced him it was time to step away from the game, and after the '95 season, Chris hung up his cleats.
For a time.
In 1999 Chris attempted a comeback with the Broncos, feeling completely healthy and recovered. He started three games in November, going 46-81 for 527 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
The Broncos were a terrible team that year, and Chris was sacked seven times during that stretch, receiving one last concussion that ended his career for good.
He can be proud, however, that he went 2-1 as a starter that season, with both wins coming against AFC West rivals.
Andre Wadsworth was the third overall pick in the 1998 draft. Coming out of Florida State, Andre's switch to DE his senior year skyrocketed him to the top of most draft boards.
Sixteen sacks and 19 tackles for a loss had Andre set up as the "can't miss prospect" of the draft. After a disastrous hold-out that cost him all of training camp and the preseason, Wadsworth never got the chance to get into game shape and was often injured.
He played three seasons with the Cardinals, getting a mere eight sacks over the 36 games he played (out of 48). The Cardinals finally gave up on him, and Wadsworth faded into the annals of great NFL busts.
Finally, seven seasons later, in 2007, the Jets signed him to a minimums contract to compete for a spot at outside linebacker. After making it through training camp and the preseason, the Jets released him on September 1.
Bobby Taylor was a big, physical corner from 1995 through 2004. Drafted in the second round by the Philadelphia Eagles, Bobby stayed in for all but the last year of his career, which ended in Seattle.
Over ten years, he had 19 picks, two touchdowns, four forced fumbles, and four sacks. Hardly Hall of Fame numbers, but Bobby was well respected.
He made the Pro Bowl once, in 2002.
Injuries plagued him most of his career, and after Seattle released him, it appeared over at age 30.
However, recent reports have Bobby Taylor working out in hopes of coming back to the NFL. Six years removed from the game, at age 36, Bobby claims to be healthy enough to be a teams nickel back or safety, with the hopes of mentoring young players.
He's currently attempting to set up visits, and mailing videos of his workouts in hopes of getting an invite to a camp this summer.
Here's hoping he makes it.
Over the decades, players have come and gone, and come back again. Some players we never want to see go. Some refuse to leave. Some we dreamed and prayed would give us one more season (see Barry Sanders, above). Some give us one more season, and then another one till it makes us nuts. (coughFAVREcough) For some, they didn't care until it was too late.
But the thing to remember is that out of thousands of players who stepped on a field throughout the decades, a select few got to put on that uniform Sunday to give it their all. No one knows how long they have on the field, no one knows how long we have on this earth for that matter.
The point is to enjoy every second of it. Every run, every block, every breath as if we won't get a second chance.
And to all the Bobby Taylors out there: keep fighting.