, ''Check out all my video games,'' says John Taylor, 32 going on
11. He points to a collection that rests under a display of football
mementos and opposite a fish tank filled with piranhas. ''I'm in here
playing all the time. This is sort of like the Boys' Room.''
Taylor, the San Francisco 49ers' hyper, happy-go-lucky, heretofore
private wide receiver, is a child inside an athlete's body, a grown
man who has found no compelling reason to relinquish the tastes and
pace of his youth. An intelligent and thoughtful soul, a determined
husband and father, a universally respected presence on a team of
glamorous icons, Taylor has all the markings of successful adulthood.
The only catch is, Taylor is still a boy at heart. ''He's Dennis the
Menace,'' says 49er president Carmen Policy. ''If he were eight,
you'd say he's 'all boy.' ''
A childlike sense of abandon has helped Taylor forge a quietly
prosperous career, one that has featured the winning catch in Super
Bowl XXIII and three Super Bowl rings, but one that he has only
recently been willing to talk about publicly. Five-and-a-half years
ago, in the aftermath of media reports about a drug suspension that
he still disputes, Taylor stopped talking to reporters, which led to
certain misconceptions about him. ''You see him portrayed as a
mellow, low-key guy -- that persona is a farce,'' says Taylor's wife,
Elayne. ''With him, there is no downtime. He's like a little boy.''
He's also good at just about everything he does. Taylor is the
team's unofficial fourth-string quarterback and the star of the
off-season basketball team. An avid bowler, he carries a 205 average
and has a high game of 289. He also loves baseball -- so much so that
in two years he plans to retire from the NFL and pursue a Michael
Jordan-esque run at the major leagues.
Taylor, who grew up in Pennsauken, N.J., attended Johnson C. Smith
University in Charlotte and then Delaware State, where he walked on
to the football team. He was drafted in the third round by the 49ers
in 1986. Two years later, before the '88 season, Taylor tested
positive for cocaine and was issued a warning by the NFL. After a
second positive test result, which Taylor disputes, he was suspended
for 30 days. He missed the season's first four games, then returned
with a bang, making the Pro Bowl as a punt returner. He capped the
season by catching one of the most famous passes in NFL history, a
10-yard spiral from Joe Montana with 34 seconds remaining in the
Niners' Super Bowl XXIII victory over Cincinnati.
Since then, Taylor has emerged as a star, a player who rivals Rice
as a blocker and who equals all other receivers as a threat after the
short catch. But with three years left on his contract, Taylor is
already preparing for life after football. He recently purchased a
pair of 18-wheelers in preparation for launching his own trucking
enterprise. ''I'll probably keep one truck out here and drive it
myself,'' he says.
''Oh, it would be perfect,'' Elayne says. ''He loves to drive, and
he loves to listen to music real loud.'' And, of course, he loves to
pull the string and toot that horn.
This is an article from the Feb. 16, 1995 issue