Nearly as many people know Jason Taylor for his slick moves on the hit ABC TV show ‘Dancing with the Stars’ as for blowing up quarterbacks and running backs on the gridiron as the star defensive end for the Miami Dolphins.
There is also a philanthropic side to Taylor, one that lead him to kick off the “Dancing for our Stars” gala dinner and auction with about 500 people at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino near Hollywood.
The June 1 event was in support of his annual Celebrity Golf Classic, which took place on June 2.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida sponsored the event, marking its fifth year. Funds raised support the Jason Taylor Foundation, which creates programs that assist in the development of children; Holtz Children’s Hospital in Miami and Take Stock in Children, an organization that addresses the high rate of school dropouts.
Joining Taylor on the red carpet for the festivities were: “Dancing with the Stars’’ partner Edyta Sliwinska, Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Cincinnati Bengal offensive lineman
Anthony Munoz, N’Sync member Chris Kirk-patrick, rap artist Chingy, former Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods, Oscar-winning actress Marlee Matlin and former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Leon Lett, to name a few.
The 2006 National Football League Defensive Player of the Year and 2007 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner heard many questions at the event about his future with the Dolphins and his desire to get into the movie industry as an actor.
A tight-lipped Taylor said he plans to play in the NFL at least one more season, but was uncommitted as to whether he will return to the team with which he has spent his entire 11-year career.
With a league worst 1-15 record in 2007, the Dolphins held the first pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, selecting Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long to help address a slew of problems on both the offensive and defensive sides of the football.
“It is always great to be home (in South Florida),” Taylor said. “It is a whole different world out there (in California).’’
Taylor’s main charity endeavor is the Jason Taylor Foundation, founded in 2004 by Taylor and his wife, Katina. The nonprofit has the mission of “supporting and creating programs that facilitate the personal growth and empowerment of South Florida’s children in need by focusing on improved healthcare, education and quality of life,’’ according to his official website at www. Jasontaylorfoundation.com.
Munoz and Woods spoke highly of the perennial pro-bowler and his efforts to give back in spite of the controversy and criticisms.
“I think he gets it, you would hope that every pro athlete coming into the league would find a way to give back,” Munoz said.
“Anytime you can get out and give back it is a good time and in Miami and South Florida of course,” Woods said.
Foundation Executive Director Seth Levit said one of the major highlights was the extra $50,000 raised with sponsor Publix challenging the guests in attendance at the gala-auction by matching donations dollar for dollar. It was an effort to get Taylor and his Stars partner, Sliwinska, out on the dance floor.
“Everything was fantastic. I would like to think this was our best year yet,” Levit said. “The accomplishments of what he has done on the field and dance floor created a lot more excitement.”
Photo by Khary Bruyning. Jason Taylor