HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor dashed off his three-deck, 100-foot yacht barely beating the heavy rain as he made his entrance to the upscale restaurant he helped open Thursday night.
Taylor flashed his movie-star smile and kissed a friend's wife on the cheek. He made his way into Rivals Waterfront Sports Grille and put on a smooth show for the patrons and owners, who have agreed to help sponsor the Jason Taylor Foundation to the tune of approximately $50,000 this year. The money will go to scholarships for underprivileged kids, and that's just part of Taylor's big dream. He hopes to one day open an education center and "help turn some things around."
The whole scene was a bit frenzied, but Taylor always seems to operate best in chaos. He learned that skill as a kid.
And that skill figures to be tested severely in the coming months.
Taylor's wife, Katina, filed for divorce in March. Divorce is hard enough – just ask Michael Strahan, Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells – but Katina also is the sister of Miami Pro Bowl linebacker Zach Thomas.
With the Dolphins – who raised hope for this season by ending 2005 with a six-game winning streak – set to open training camp next Friday, that leads to questions as obvious as the three-foot script letters on the side of Taylor's yacht that spell "Katina."
There is the selfish fan perspective: Are Taylor and Thomas going to get along this year or will this undermine the team? Then there is the more humanistic question: Is Taylor OK?
For the past two weeks, Taylor has done his best to avoid questions about his personal life. In fact, he issued a statement last week asking that people respect his privacy.
This week, he did one radio interview only after saying he didn't want to talk about the situation. On Thursday night, he told three different public relations staffers at the event that if any reporter asked about his personal life, he would walk away from the interview.
Just to make sure nothing went awry, the P.R. folk ended his interview after five harmless questions.
"Our ultimate goal is to build a learning center," Taylor said while reminding the reporters and cameramen on three occasions that none of the money from the foundation is "going into our pockets." He carefully has followed his foundation, hoping to someday build something on par with Dan Marino's foundation.
Finally, Taylor posed for some photos with management of the restaurant. Eight people got in the shot. At one point, a woman directing the impromptu shoot told the group to squeeze together.
"Like a wedding photo," she said.
Taylor didn't flinch at that, at least not that anyone could see. He stayed calm and even joked with the photographer at the end.
"You said one more and that's been about eight," Taylor said with light sarcasm.
Yes, Taylor has survived much worse. As a child, his father abandoned him and his mother, and from there, he ended up with a stepfather whom Taylor has accused of mental and physical cruelty during childhood and later of threats in adulthood. At one point, Taylor said in a deposition that he kept a gun on his nightstand due to fear of his stepfather, even though he was living in a gated community.
Through all of that, Taylor thrived. He even is again trying to succeed at marriage.
Taylor, who wore his diamond-encrusted wedding ring Thursday, has told friends that he's doing everything he can to reconstruct his family, which includes three young children with Katina. It won't be easy, though. Katina doesn't need this marriage. She never has. She is the daughter of a wealthy family in Texas, so she can't be plied with material offerings and the promise of a better life together.
There have to be results.
"He doesn't have a lot of time before camp starts, but he's trying to get it all together," a friend said. "Everybody is hoping for them. They're both really good people."
- Jason Taylor