For a few hours Tuesday, Charlotte hosted the past and future of professional football.
While quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers were finishing the first of three mini-camp practices, Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor was preparing to a speak at an uptown luncheon.
Taylor, 57, an All-America linebacker at North Carolina and perennial All-Pro for the New York Giants, took part in a brief question-and-answer session at the Charlotte Touchdown Club Luncheon in front of sponsors and guests.
With fellow NFL alum Steve Israel asking questions, Taylor, the 1986 NFL Most Valuable Player, spoke about his Hall of Fame career and the state of the league.
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On the image he wanted to project as a player: As a ballplayer, I wanted to be feared. ... But you know what? I was a thug at first. I didn’t become a real player until my junior year (at North Carolina) when I learned it was better to be respected than feared.”
On how players in his era compare to players today: “We would’ve been suspended every game. ... Guys nowadays, they don’t hit nobody. Football was a gladiator sport ... but the game has changed.”
On who he considered the best defensive player of all-time: “I’m pretty good, but there’s two I’d put above me. Deacon Jones and Reggie White. Reggie White was so good because he would have everybody on the field praying.”
On Cam Newton: “I think Cam Newton’s a great talent. He just has to watch his emotions. Wherever he leads, (his team) will follow.”
On retirement: “My last three years in the league, I was already retired. I just didn’t tell nobody. I was tired. ... When you lose the will to hit or the will to be hit, get the hell out of the party.”