JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Running back Fred Taylor is retiring from the NFL after 13 seasons and nearly 12,000 yards.
Taylor will sign a one-day contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday so he can formally retire with the team that drafted him ninth overall in 1998.
The ceremony surely will be an emotional one, with family members, friends and former teammates on hand. The former Florida star spent 11 seasons in Jacksonville and remains the franchise's leading rusher with 11,271 yards. He ranks third with 286 catches and fourth with 2,361 receiving yards.
More telling than his stats was his transition from a shy college kid who seemed to find trouble in Gainesville into a model player who became a team leader and a strong voice for league issues. Coaches and teammates lauded Taylor as one of the hardest-working players in Jacksonville's locker room. Media members and team personnel regarded him as the easiest to deal with, a class act on and off the field, regardless of wins or losses.
Taylor spent the last two seasons playing sparingly in New England, where he ran 106 times for 424 yards and four touchdowns.
"I want to thank every1 who has directly or indirectly supported my career and help shape my character," Taylor wrote on his Twitter account, saluting all "Gators/Jags/Pats."
Taylor ranks 15th on the NFL's all-time rushing list with 11,695 yards. He is 379 yards behind Thurman Thomas and 343 ahead of John Riggins -- both in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Taylor's induction might not be a guarantee. He missed chunks of time because of injuries early in his career, never made the Super Bowl -- not even with the Patriots -- and played in just one Pro Bowl.
He ran for 1,202 yards and five touchdowns in 2007 and earned his first trip to Hawaii. He probably should have made it before, but playing in small-market Jacksonville did little to help his cause. He often joked that he was the NFL's version of famed daytime actress Susan Lucci.
As Taylor's career started winding down, he talked openly about wanting to pass Jim Brown (12,312 yards) on the all-time rushing list. But once the Jaguars parted ways with Taylor after the 2008 season, he started to realize it might not happen.
Injuries might have been the real culprit.
Taylor missed 24 games over his first four seasons and was ineffective in several more because of various injuries. He had a strained hamstring that sidelined him six games in 1999, a strained knee ligament that kept him out of the first three games in 2000, and a torn groin muscle that prevented him from playing the final 14 games in 2001. That three-year stretch left him labeled as soft, brittle and injury prone.
But "Fragile Fred" proved all the naysayers wrong by starting 46 consecutive games between 2002 and 2004, an impressive streak at a position that deals with more pain and punishment than any other. Taylor even played through a broken bone in his foot in 2004.
Through it all, he became the face of the small-market franchise.
Taylor had hoped to spend his entire career in Jacksonville, but the Jaguars released him following the 2008 season as part of a rebuilding project. By then, Taylor had admittedly lost a step and knew the team wanted to turn the offense over to Maurice Jones-Drew. Coach Jack Del Rio flew to South Florida to personally give Taylor the news.
Taylor still has a house in Jacksonville, but he likely will retire in South Florida where he can watch his son play high school football. Kelvin Taylor, a junior at Glades Day School, has turned heads since making the varsity team as an eighth-grader. He is less than 2,500 yards shy of the state's career rushing record of 8,804 yards (Emmitt Smith) and has become one of the most coveted recruits in the country.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press