Family ties

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by Aubrey Bruce
For New Pittsburgh Courier

I am not even going to fake that the following is an “objective” article. This is a piece about my personal experiences with Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ivan “Ike” Taylor.

A few years ago I was invited by Herman Francois to come to New Orleans to cover Ike’s annual “Face Me Ike” youth football camp football camp in Greta, La. I was able to spend a week at the home of Mr. Francois, Ike Taylor’s uncle and surrogate father. During that week his other two uncles, James and Wade Francois were never far behind. This was almost an entire week dedicated to the community but it was filled first with family, then friends and last but not least the young and exuberant participants. Ike’s family and friends fulfilled almost every job from janitor to court jester in order to insure that the event was successful. This was a family event from beginning to end.

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For seven days, I was afforded not just a glimpse into the life of Ivan Taylor, I was given full access. I slept in the bedroom where some of his high school trophies and signed balls were kept. My bedroom had a full bath attached to it. Heck I did not want to leave after the week was up. The evening before I returned to Pittsburgh I dined at Morton’s Steakhouse in New Orleans with Ike, James Farrior, William Gay and of course “Uncle Herm.” These Steelers were just three young men out having dinner allowing me to tag along. Trust me; if I would have had to pay for my own victuals, I would have had dishpan hands for two months. My dinner was paid for not because I was special; the check was picked up because here were three young rich Black gentlemen showing an old grizzled sportswriter some respect and a good time. Trust me, they were, are and remain a select group of good hearted young men. They did not have to be concerned about me vilifying them because of a blown coverage or missed tackle. They laughed when a bit of food missed my mouth. They were exhibiting laughter that had a well, almost “schoolyard” childlike timbre to it. As the late David Ruffin of the mighty Temptations might say: “Not a sad word would their young hearts be saying [because] there’s plenty of work and the [NFL] was paying.”

The Francois family is a very spiritual, hard working and close knit group. That closeness is significant and is the primary reason why Ivan Taylor has been successful in life. Taylor’s football family (who he is very close with), the Rooney’s are also a very spiritual, hardworking and loyal family. Their loyalty to Ike has been confirmed. Why? Because his recent signing with the Steelers was for an amount of money for which the final terms may not ever be fully disclosed.

Ike Taylor is not perfect but in my opinion he always seems to be working toward and striving for perfection, whether it is on the football field or in his private life. He is not the sort of person with numerous warts who continuously insists that he be the one to handle the toads. He learns and grows from his own mistakes as well as the misfortunes of those who surround him. Ike is an associate of ‘Lil Wayne’ yet you don’t see him glorifying drugs and immorality or doing stints in prison. You don’t hear quotes from Ivan Taylor talking about “pissing or not pissing on the commissioner of the NFL” for any reason. Ike does not allow money to run him, he runs the money. Ike Taylor plays hard and prays harder. He refused to renegotiate his contract in the media. Trust me on this, he is the faithful, strong silent type.

In the past, Ike restructured his contract for the sake of the team, allegedly more than once “taking one on the chin” for the team but he continued to deliver. Now it was the Steelers turn to restructure their fiscal “pyramid” and re-sign Ike Taylor for the sake of the team; the Steelers delivered, big time!

When the Steelers signed Ike they did not just sign a player, they confirmed a sports “ideology.” Taylor is one of the heirs of the Pittsburgh Steelers legacy. He is a prince in the court of sports royalty. Am I really surprised that he was re-signed? No. Did I really think they could really re-sign him? No, because there were perverted dollars being dangled in front of him and as we all know, money talks and bull crap, walks. In the end it was Ike’s loyalty and values that kept him in the Steel City, not dead presidents. And in the end it was the Pittsburgh Steelers keeping their promise to Ike that if he did right by them, they would do right by him.

“I would like to thank GOD, the ROONEY family, KEVIN COLBERT, COACH TOMLIN, and MY SUPER AGENT JOEL SEGAL for getting this deal done,” Ike posted on Twitter.

All of the media “haters” who wrote that Taylor was a bum not even fit to collect an NFL paycheck because he has dropped a few interceptions along the way during his stellar career now continue to face problems of their own; their primary hardship being how to stretch limited salaries to pay the mortgage, buy food, clothing and to send their kids to college. Ike now has enough money to buy one hundred fully stocked supermarkets or to send one hundred kids to college.

When Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu got paid, there were shouts of joy in hallowed press boxes across the land. When Ike Taylor received what he was due, there was an almost eerie silence. Flautist Hubert Laws released an album back in the day titled, ‘Say it With Silence’—great recording. Nuff said.

(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: abruce@newpittsburghcourier.com or 412-583-6741.)

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