One football will be polished. The other is scuffed.
One will be handled with kid gloves. The other has been smudged by kids’ play.
And, whereas one will reside behind glass at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the other belongs to Kitrick Taylor, a little-known receiver who spent one season with the Green Bay Packers.
These are the football bookends of Brett Favre’s career -- the record-breaking one from a play that could happen today against Minnesota, and the very first game-winner thrown by the Packers legend. Both meaningful.
Favre has thrown 420 touchdown passes over 16 seasons, matching Miami’s Dan Marino for the NFL record. Forty-two men have caught those throws, Taylor among them.
The Murrieta, Calif., resident caught one touchdown pass over the course of his seven-year, five-team career -- and it just happened to be the first game-winning toss by Favre.
Since, that ball has skidded across the pavement and splashed through mud puddles. It has been toted to family picnics by Taylor’s four kids, and has baked in the sun.
How could Taylor have known he’d never make another touchdown catch? How could he have guessed that Favre -- then a second-year backup to Don Majkowski -- would throw so many?
Had Taylor known, he might have taken better care of that keepsake.
“I’m going to get it touched up a little bit,” he said.
Taylor, 43, a former Pomona High star who played at Washington State, isn’t the type to dwell on his athletic accomplishments. He’s just as proud that he was ordained as a church elder this summer, or of his work as an administrator of group homes in San Bernardino County for kids from abusive households.
He bounced from team to team in the NFL, beginning his career in 1987 as a fifth-round pick of Kansas City, then playing for New England, San Diego, Green Bay and Denver. He scored on two punt returns, but his only receiving touchdown came in a nail-biter against Cincinnati, Sept. 20, 1992, at Lambeau Field.
So much later, Favre can recall specific details about the game. He also said this week that, “I’ll always remember Kitrick as a guy that kind of jump-started my career.”
Up to that point, both players got all of their action on the scout team during practice. Favre got the nod in the first quarter after Majkowski went out with a twisted ankle. Taylor took the field on Green Bay’s final possession, with the Packers trailing, 23-17, and less than a minute to play. He replaced star receiver Sterling Sharpe, who had caught Favre’s first career touchdown pass but later sustained a rib injury when he fell on the ball wrong.
The rest is part of Packers lore. In a game that first-year coach Mike Holmgren would call “the happiest win of my life,” Favre hit Taylor with a 35-yard touchdown pass play with 13 seconds to play.
Favre had called an “all go” -- essentially telling his receivers to run straight up the field and try to get open. Lined up on the right side was Taylor, whose best attribute was raw speed.
“The corner tried to jam me, but he never got his hands on me,” he recalled. “I ran up the sideline and saw the safety veering toward the middle of the field to cover the tight end. I’m thinking, ‘Whoa, that safety’s pretty deep! Get ready!’ And after about 10 yards I was like, ‘Oh, man, Brett can’t go anywhere but to me!’ ”
Sure enough, Favre spotted Taylor slip past his defender and threw one of those now-familiar pinpoint strikes. For an instant, Taylor lost the ball in the glare but was able to cradle it in his arms at the three-yard line and glide into the end zone.
“I couldn’t bear to look,” Favre said at the time. “I just closed my eyes and waited for the crowd to let me know.”
The crowd erupted, shaking the storied stadium to its pilings.
“I couldn’t hear anything when that ball was in the air,” Taylor said. “As soon as I caught it, I ran into the end zone and put my arms up in the air. It was like someone turned up the volume.”
Taylor didn’t do the Lambeau Leap -- it had yet to be invented -- but that moment is seared into his memory. Although the classic highlight airs from time to time, Taylor has seen it just once. For him, that’s enough.
“I replay it all the time in my mind,” he said. “And when I watch Green Bay and anyone who wears 85 for them, I always envision myself in that 85 jersey.”
The soft-spoken Taylor typically keeps his football memories to himself. He does wear a football championship ring, but it’s one from his year coaching at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga.
He still dabbles in sports and a few years ago founded QuikTime Athletics, which tutors clients on how to run faster. Although he still looks athletic, Taylor is huskier now than he was as a player, when he was a lean 5 feet 11, 194 pounds.
His stint in Green Bay ended on a sour note. After catching the touchdown pass, he was a hero around town but got very little playing time. Late in the season, he was released to make room for receiver Ron Lewis, a former Holmgren pupil who had been cut loose by San Francisco.
“That was the down part of my career,” Taylor said. “You figure if you last that long you’re going to stay on the roster. No one understood it. Not Sterling Sharpe, not anyone. I guess it was just business.”
The next season, Taylor’s last, he made appearances in two games for Denver. Only later would he understand the significance of catching passes from Favre and John Elway in consecutive seasons.
He still feels the deepest connection with Kansas City, however, because it was the Chiefs who drafted him.
Regardless, he has a satellite dish and will be watching the Packers today, pulling for Favre to break the record.
“It feels awesome just to be a part of that,” Taylor said. “No one can ever take that away. It’s already in the books. It gives that feeling of, hey, I really made it.
“I’m just thankful I was on the other end of that pass.”
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Players on the receiving end of Brett Favre’s record-tying 420 regular-season touchdown passes:
Source: Green Bay Packers