Jason Taylor planned to make a cameo for a Miami Dolphins rookie night at Bokamper's restaurant in June. Shake hands. Wish the kids luck. Maybe drop a joke and duck out the door. Ten minutes, tops.
He did just that, too. But on his way to the door this year's first-round draft pick Charles Harris stopped him with a question: Would Taylor meet with him? Work with him? Help him?
Taylor was surprised. He never had a rookie ask for help. The last rookie Taylor tried to help with a similarly lean frame and pass-rushing possibilities, Dion Jordan, didn't exactly work out.
"I had to chase him down to try to work with him," Taylor said of the No. 3 overall pick who was released by the Dolphins this offseason and is now with Seattle. "I couldn't get him to call me back. I finally just gave up on it."
Taylor exchanged numbers with Harris that night, not sure where it might lead. He discovered soon enough when his phone, "started blowing up" in the ensuing days, he said. Harris wanted to get together.
Taylor was in and out of town, so it took a while to line up schedules. The best time, he realized, was after the final Dolphins workouts in June, but that's when players typically duck away for a final vacation before the season.
"I wasn't going anywhere," Harris said. "I was here to work."
Harris, to be sure, didn't know much of Taylor before arriving with the Dolphins.
"Nothing, to be honest," he said.
He didn't follow NFL football much. But he looked around the Dolphins complex in his opening weeks of workouts and saw Taylor's name on records, his picture in the hallways and read about his Hall of Fame game.
Taylor, at 6-6 and 240 pounds, also had similar speed at defensive end to the 6-3, 250-pound Harris.
"That's someone I need to learn from," Harris thought.
They planned a first workout in late June at the Dolphins facility. Taylor came from summer conditioning at St. Thomas Aquinas, where he is an assistant coach. Harris had just finished weight lifting and running.
"I figured we'd be out there maybe 30 minutes," Taylor said. "Next thing you know, we're out there an hour and a half, two hours. I'm drenched with sweat. He started getting that itch, because I'm putting him through a drill. I'm getting it, too. Next thing I know, I'm going through the drill, too."
They worked on fundamental tools like footwork and hand work. Harris learned to punch the '6' on the blocking dummy's No. 64 each play – to "buck" the blocker to be able to set the edge. Taylor wanted to know what Harris considered his weakness as a pass-rusher so they could work on that.
"You've got to work on you weakness or (linemen) will make you pay," Taylor said.
They met again a few days after that first workout. And then again. Five, maybe six times in the span of a couple of weeks before training camp began. Each time with sweat and knowledge being spilled over a couple hours.
"The great thing is others in the building saw us," Taylor said. "We had four people working out with us."
Young defensive linemen came. Nick Williams. Lawrence Okoye. Did it help? Harris chuckled at that, as if to say, "What if you had a Hall of Famer mentor you in your line of work?"
Coach Adam Gase picked up on it and would text Taylor to show up even as camp started. That meant something, too. Joe Philbin asked Taylor not to work with Jordan after practice, because he said players needed to rest.
"It's not just technique and pass-rushing," Harris said. "I was more interested in his legacy – how he developed, how he stayed healthy, how to constantly improve and be consistent. He couldn't get to the Hall without doing it off the field, too.
Taylor told how teams ran at him because he was light – and he loved it, because, "I didn't have to run 40 yards to make a play," he said. He spoke of dropping from nine sacks his second season to a disappointing 21/2 his third.
Opposing linemen caught on to his speed rush. A veteran teammate, Trace Armstrong, pushed Taylor to add a counter move. Taylor found a power moved based on arm leverage.
That third year also taught him something about temptation, something any rookie needs to know.