Lawrence Taylor struck fear into opponents. Just ask Joe Theismann.
Those unfortunate enough to face the Hall of Fame linebacker knew to brace for contact and pain. So you might assume that Taylor, in response to a question about which athlete he would pay to watch play, would select someone similarly menacing and frightening.
Someone his own size.
He chose a competitor who simply strikes a little white ball, playing a gentleman's game.
"Tiger Woods," Taylor said. "That's it. Tiger Woods. There are a couple of basketball players, but mostly Tiger Woods. Because he plays his game like it's supposed to be played. He takes no prisoners. Every time he steps out on that golf course, he feels he is the best player out there.
"And I used to do the same thing my first five, six years in the league, when I stepped out on the field."
It turns out that Taylor wasn't exactly stepping out on a limb. In fact, when NBCSports.com posed that same question to more than 40 current and former athletes and coaches during the past year, Woods was the overwhelming winner ... as he is most weekends on the course, when healthy.
Others mentioned prominently were Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali Bill Russell and Alex Rodriguez, but Woods dominated the conversation.
Woods is recovering from knee surgery, and could return as early as March. When he does, athletes and coaches in other sports will be nearly as excited as executives on the PGA Tour.
And if you ever wondered whether Woods, as a golfer, qualifies as an athlete, that question is settled by the reverential terms in which team-sport athletes regard him.
Maybe it's because so many have struggled to master the game Woods plays.
Like Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney.
Veteran Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning was "bitten by the golf bug" three years ago, and "now that I'm getting into it, I can truly realize how difficult what he's making look easy, how difficult that is. Shoot, I would pay to watch him anyday."
The only guy who comes close for Mourning? Former Boston Celtics center Russell. "To get 20 rebounds, 30 rebounds, consistently like that, come on, man."
Heat guard Dwyane Wade grew up admiring Jordan who, even though retired, was the choice of Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, St. Louis Rams quarterback Trent Green, New England Patriots halfback Laurence Maroney and Dallas Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman.
"But right now, I'd go pay to see Tiger," said Wade, the 2006 NBA Finals MVP. "I mean, to see his greatness. To watch what he did in (the 2008 U.S. Open), put him up there, no question, with the best of all time. A lot of people don't know how hard a sport golf is."
"If there could be five people in the world who I would want to meet, he'd be one of them," University of Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl said. "The way he keeps raising the bar is fascinating to me.''
Future Hall of Famers in basketball (Jason Kidd) and football (Jonathan Ogden) picked Woods.
College stars such as Notre Dame basketball guard Kyle McAlarney picked Woods: "I watched what he did recently [in the U.S. Open] and I was thinking to myself, 'Wow.' And then it comes out that he had a torn ACL and a fractured tibia. That's amazing. That's impressive. I would definitely pay to see him."
And yes, baseball All-Stars, such as Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan and Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Carlos Pena, chose Woods, too.
"He's unbelievable to me," Pena said of Woods. "You have 250 guys going into a tournament. These guys are good. It's amazing to me that over and over and over again, with 250 guys, he's almost always in first place.
"Amazing! Everybody is getting the same test. His level of dominance is crazy. It's like he's in his own little world."
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