Collectors now have a chance to own some really big shoes, whose soles once belonged to a player who was the heart and soul of the New York Giants.
The white, size 13 Nike/Pro cleats worn by Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor during Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium is part of SCP Auctions’ Mid-Summer Classic online auction, which runs through August 22.
Bidding for the cleats, which show considerable game wear, grass stains and chunks of lime from the field, opened at $3,000 on August 5. By Friday afternoon, the price had risen to $4,833.
Taylor’s former teammate Gary Reasons is the consignor of the cleats, which will have a letter of provenance from Reasons included in the auction lot.
“Lawrence was a guy who elevated the game because of his athleticism, size and ability,” said Reasons, 53, who is president of Pro Athletes Group, a merchant services provider. “If he’s not the best, he’s one of the top five defensive players of all time, and I don’t say that lightly.”
Reasons’ locker was next to LT’s in Tampa, and after the Giants held on for a thrilling 20-19 victory against Buffalo — clinched when Bills’ placekicker Scott Norwood pushed a potential game-winning 47-yard field goal attempt wide right on the game’s final play — Taylor left the cleats in front of his locker.
“I was packing my bag — I was one of the last people still in the locker room — and Lawrence came back to his locker,” Reasons said. “He threw the shoes down and looked at me and said ‘I guess I won’t need these anymore.’”
Taylor was flying to Honolulu for the Pro Bowl, which utilized AstroTurf for its playing field.
Reasons continued to pack and also tossed Taylor’s cleats in the bag. When he got home, he put the bag into his closet. Opening it several months later, he realized that nestled among his size 14 cleats were Taylor’s beaten up shoes. Even the laces were still intact.
“After a while I forgot I had them,” Reasons said. “Then one day I opened it and said, ‘hey, these aren’t mine.’ I realized they were Lawrence’s.”
And they stayed in the closet until this year.
Super Bowl XXV was an emotional time in our country’s history. The United States had just begun fighting the Gulf War in Kuwait, and security was tight at Tampa Stadium.
“It was a little bit different,” Reasons said. “We didn’t have that extra week; we flew right from San Francisco to Florida. We had a party on the plane because we knew we wouldn’t have time once we landed.
“But it was euphoric. Winning the NFC Championship was a big deal because it got us to the Super Bowl. And when we got there, we took care of business.”
A crowd of 73,813 fans braved the metal detectors and pat-downs on Super Sunday. So did the players.
“Security had us come in early and we had to be wanded,” Reasons said. “We weren’t any different than any of the fans.”
I was a member of the hometown Tampa Tribune sports copy desk that night, and my job was to act as a gatekeeper back at the office, making sure our desk knew what sidebars would be filed and checking in with writers to make sure they sent the stories on time so we could meet our deadlines. It was a tense, yet exciting time.
As the two 13-3 teams prepared to square off, anticipation for a classic was high. Nobody was disappointed.
Singer Whitney Houston gave a stirring rendition of the national anthem during the pregame show.
“She did sing it,” Reasons said. “I was about 10 yards away from her and she really belted it out.
“It was amazing. You could feel that emotion.”
As Houston finished singing, F-16 jets from the 56th Tactical Training Wing at nearby MacDill Air Force Base streaked across the sky above the stadium. The Giants and Bills then played one of the most memorable Super Bowls as the game celebrated its silver anniversary.
The Giants, who had allowed the fewest points (211) in the NFL during the 1990 regular season, had to stop Jim Kelly and the Bills, who piled up the most points (428).
The Giants played their usual ball-control offense and even churned out a Super Bowl record 9-minute, 29-second drive that covered 75 yards in the third quarter.
“We tried to keep the ball out of their hands,” Reasons said.
It was just enough to give the Giants a victory, thanks to Norwood’s miss at the end. For the second time in five years, the Giants had hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy under Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, whose staff included future head coaches Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin.
Reasons, who called defensive signals along with Harry Carson, played a key role in getting the Giants to Super Bowl XXV, rumbling 30 yards on a fake punt midway through the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park.
Trailing 13-9, the Giants lined up to punt on fourth-and-2 in their territory just short of midfield. However, Reasons took the snap and rumbled 30 yards inside the 49ers’ 25, setting up the fourth of Matt Bahr’s five field goals.
Reasons said he had told Parcells earlier that the “play was there,” and it became even easier when the 49ers’ Harry Sydney did not report on special teams, leaving San Francisco with just 10 men on the field.
“Parcells gave me the green light,” Reasons said. “I told him it was there earlier, and when I saw it again I audibled and took the snap. I ran right through the hole where Sydney was supposed to be. You might say I put the weight of the whole season on my shoulders with that call.”
CBS television analyst John Madden was impressed.
“Good turn in, turn out. Boom, what a hole there,” he said on the broadcast. “The only guy there is the safety, who was the return man, John Taylor, and he makes a pretty good tackle.”
“I’ve always said that John Taylor was the greatest open field tackler in history,” Reasons laughed.
The Giants eventually prevailed on Bahr’s last-second field goal to win 15-13 and punch a ticket to Tampa.
While Reasons said most players keep mementos from their football career, he never considered himself much of a collector. However, his “most cherished” piece of memorabilia is a Super Bowl XXV Silver Anniversary collectors’ edition helmet produced by Riddell.
“I bought it prior to the game,” Reasons said. “I had the whole team and coaching staff sign it before we played the Bills.
“To me, it’s an awesome piece, my most cherished piece of memorabilia. I display that in the center of my office.”
But Reasons had no need to keep Lawrence Taylor’s cleats, so he decided putting it on the block was the way to go.
“When you look at mementos, this (the cleats) is something that belonged to one of the best defensive players ever in one of his crowning moments,” Reasons said.
SCP Auctions’ Terry Melia said the cleats could top five figures; with nine days left, bidding is halfway there.
“First and foremost, they’re game-used and worn by one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history,” Melia said. “The fact that they were worn in a Super Bowl — and a significant one at that — makes it an even more sought-after item.”
Last week, Reasons told the New York Daily News he doesn’t believe Taylor will want the shoes back.
“I’m not worried about that,” Reasons laughed. “It’s been almost 25 years and he hasn’t called looking for his shoes yet.”