Sometimes you go into an interview, especially one titled 10 questions, prepared with what you want to ask a player. Of course along the way there are some things you add as you listen to what the player says. When it comes to Ike Taylor and his refreshing candor, his openness, his wearing his heart on his sleeve, sometimes the 10 questions you had prepared just go out the window and you just go with the flow. How tough has it been on you being sidelined with the injury?It stinks. Just knowing you are going to be out for weeks, you have no control when you are coming back. Football is my life. Since I was eight years old that's all I have been playing. I played baseball and basketball, but football has been my life and my love. Knowing I have to sit out and watch football, it's tough. Until they tell me we don't need you, time to hang your cleats up, cool. But me just sitting out…During the offseason I can't wait to get back. I tell my family I can't wait to be with the guys. They are like, 'what about us.' Selfishly speaking I am going to retire at an early age, 35 or 36. That is young in the real world. I only have the opportunity with these guys for a short time. People don't understand what we go through, the pressure put on us, that we deal with a lot these days. Plus now you have social media. When I first got into the league social media wasn't hot. Now I have to be the backbone not only for myself and team, but for my family because they get criticized just as much as me depending on how the season goes.
As far as football that's what I bring to the table. I bring passion, attitude, I care. Me sitting out, this stinks but I have to do it. In the meantime I am going to be the best teammate, cheerleader and extra set of eyes until I can get back onto the field.
Is it tough not being in control of when you return, not knowing how fast it's going to heal?**
I have been in control all of my life. I have been in control of everything I have done all of my life from off and on the field. Now having a broken forearm I have no control of when I can come back. Now I can sit back and see life outside of playing football, the way coaches think, my teammates body language after wins, after losses and what I can do to help while I'm out. It's hard. It's definitely an adjustment. Just being out of football and not on the field you pay attention to other things. Like 'Papa" (Dan) Rooney, I make sure I go and see and make sure everything is okay with him, joke and laugh with him. I make sure I go up on the second floor and see the girls, the assistants, and how they are doing, talk to them, and see how they are doing. You appreciate all of the things you don't have as much time to appreciate when you are focused on playing. When we win or lose I see how y'all go through it. I see your body language; I see the whole staff's body language. You don't see it as much when you are playing because your mindset is different; you think I have to get better for next week. But when you are on the sideline you see if from everybody, from the players, people in the cafeteria, the janitor, the trainers, and the people on the second floor. I just see it.
Do you notice even more now how precious this game is not being able to play?
I always understood that part. I never take anything for granted. That's why during the offseason I am always back at it. That's why during the season losing hurts. I am competitive. I don't want to leave this game with any regrets. I know my strengths and flaws. I dropped a lot of interceptions. If I caught a fourth of them I would be in the Hall of Fame. But I didn't. If there is going to be a knock on Ike, it's going to be his ability to catch them. Other than that I have had a successful career so far. I can't go back and say I wish I would have because I have put everything I have into this game. Me sitting out now, it's just a different perspective, just sitting back and seeing things. I have given it my all, emotions and everything. I have probably put more of my emotions than physical ability into this game and that can be draining. I care so much about this team, my teammates, and the organization. Over the course of time I have been here I have had a lot to prove. We get a cornerback every year. It's always an 'Ike replacement.' That is hard. I feel like my mentality is stronger than others, though. People ask why I take them under my wings, why I show them the ropes. It's because I understand and appreciate the game. I understand at my position you have to be mentally tough or you aren't going to make it. I try to show the guys how to be a professional on and off the field, it starts off the field and it comes with winning.
Speaking of being tough, when you were injured you just walked off the field. Even teammates said they would have been in tears. How were you able to handle it that way?I have been through so much trauma mentally to where physically you are just numb to things. I had my mama, my lady, my son, my sisters, nieces and nephews at the game. I thought there is no way they are going to see me down or cry. No way. Then I have my teammates right there and I am looking in their eyes and they are about to cry. Then you have Coach (Mike) Tomlin, he was like you are walking off this field, and I was like you are right, don't cart me off I am walking off. The trainers thought I was in shock and I wasn't. I told (Joey) Porter to help me up so I can walk off this field. You don't even think about it, it becomes second nature. My mom and them came to the locker room and were about to cry and I told them don't worry. It's football. It happens. Somebody has to be the strong one, and that's how I feel about this team. Somebody has to do it, everybody can't. That is me. I think I show my passion on the field.
Is it a challenge to be that mentally strong?
What I have been through, from the time I was a kid, people don't even know half of it. It made me the person I am today as far as being mentally strong. That is why I am always smiling. A lot of days it was tough.
During his injury, which included returning to minimal work this week, Ike Taylor has still been a team player. Take a look at some photos of Ike from the sidelines.
What were some of those things that gave you that strength?**
Just small things. One thing my mama always did, she kept us in church. She worked two jobs, so a lot of nights she wasn't at home. But we understood each other, we understood family. We had to borrow bread, had to borrow electricity, had to borrow water. We had to boil water because the hot water wasn't working. We had to leave the stove on because the heater wasn't working, had to sleep in the kitchen. There were a lot of rough nights. Going through it with other people in the family, with outsiders, we always had each other. The older I got I knew what she was talking about staying together as far as me and my sisters. I am the oldest, but the older of my two sisters, Shawnonne, we are just a year apart and she became the mama of the family. Right now we call her 'Mama Nonne.' I saw her transform. When our kids have problems we send them to her. My youngest sister, Coretta, is just a smaller version of me. Danielle, my son Ivan's mom, I put her through a lot but I tell her she is the reason I go. She is my green light.
There was a lot of stuff. My homeboy was heavy into the drug gang. In New Orleans your mentality is different. They started messing with his family and he committed suicide. I was one of the last people he talked to. He told me I have to do something. He told me the situation. I knew what he was talking about. In New Orleans all there was were sports and drugs. From 1994-98 it was like the murder capital of the world and we took pride in that there. It's crazy looking back at that. Me growing up in that time the drug dealers saw something in me that I didn't and told me to stay away from them, stick to sports. I didn't get it then, I didn't see it in me. When I went to college I started to get it, especially seeing what happened to my homeboy and the situation he got into. He knew they were coming for his family so he took his life. It's crazy. It's crazy, but that's how it goes. That is when I talk about mentally tough…I can't even tell you half of the stuff I have been through. I have been through a lot, a whole lot.
Did football save you from what could have happened if you went the wrong path?
Oh yeah. I would be locked up. I would be in jail if it weren't for football, for sure. Those are the kind of guys that you were around. I stayed with my uncle who was a preacher. My mom had me in church. But it's your environment. I am so glad they saw something in me that I didn't see in myself. Now materialistic things don't even matter. I like my watches, but hearing guys talk about some things, cars, jewelry, and the like. I think we have an owner upstairs who doesn't carry himself like that. That man has a Buick. He can have anything he wants to and he has a Buick. What part don't you see about that? We can make the excuse we never had anything. Coming into the game 70 percent of football players never did have. When they walked out of the game they still don't have because they don't know what to do. You have to maintain that, find a happy medium. At some point you have to grow. I have been fortunate to grow up.
Most thought you would be done for the year because of the injury and the team never put you on injured reserve. Does that speak to your mental toughness?
I wasn't even sure of the situation. My agent called and said you aren't going to be on IR and I was like why are you calling and telling me that. He told me you know they could put you on IR and you would be done for the season. I knew I wasn't going out like this. That is the last way I am going out. I am not going out by default. When I go out, I am going out. I guess the organization felt the same way, if anybody is going to come back from it it's going to be Ike. My mentality is I am better at 80 percent than your guy is at 100 percent. I have to go out there and prove that and I have been proving that for a while. There were a lot of injuries I had that I didn't say anything and it comes with the territory. I didn't want to make excuses. A lot of guys make excuses for their performance, but me, it comes with the territory. It's all I know, football.
While you are out, what are you trying to do during practice and games and is game day miserable for you?
Just being the eyes for my secondary. I am paying attention to how coaches think, game-planning. I am learning a lot about the offense because I am able to sit and watch offense and defense. It's opened my eyes from a coaching standpoint. I just like being an extra set of eyes on the field for them.
Not playing, game day, it stinks. I want to fight every game. I know I can't, but that's how much I care. I am not a loud talker, I don't like to talk loud because sometimes that gets old. But my teammates do see my passion. They do see I care. That's all that matters.
If you had to describe yourself in three words what would they be?
Loyal, which probably helps and hurts in my decision-making. Respectful, because the more respect I give to people the more I get back regardless of status. I treat everybody with respect. The third and I guess it's more than three words, but I feel like I am David vs. Goliath. Every time I wake it's going to be an obstacle. God showed David faith in his life. I feel like through my life he showed me faith. It started when I was small. In high school, there were 1,300 kids, and my principal showed me favor and got me into Lafayette-Louisiana. In college the dean took a liking to me. Here Papa Rooney took a liking to me. Every step in life I have been shown favor from people who are high above me and I think why, what do they see. I just take it in stride. That's how it's been. I figure I get it from being loyal and being respectful.