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Super Bowl Shuffle revisited: Former Bears DB Ken Taylor still hears footsteps

He has a Super Bowl ring and a great behind-the-scenes story to tell about his old ‘crew.’

Bears defensive back Ken Taylor.
Sun-Times file

Ken Taylor — a former Bears defensive back and Super Bowl XX champ — knows a little something about timing.

Just ask ’85 Bears teammate Mike Singletary.

Sure, the Hall of Fame linebacker carries the more memorable name from that stellar defense, but Taylor played a key role in creating one of the most iconic moments in NFL history — “The Super Bowl Shuffle.”

You can spot Taylor in the back of the set as a member of the “Shufflin’ Crew” Chorus. No. 31 is dancing with the confidence that embodied the eventual Super Bowl-winning team. But Taylor was more than a backup dancer.

Singletary, who was responsible for the team’s choreography, relied on Taylor to help him figure out the moves the team needed to execute. And Taylor delivered, thanks to his timing and quickness. Those traits got him noticed by NFL teams, despite winning only six — yes, six — games during his four years at Oregon State.

Taylor attributed his quickness and speed to his track career in high school and college. He continued the training while playing football to stay more agile and faster than most on the field. And one of his most memorable moments came during a training-camp practice when his timing was a little off.

“I was having one interception per practice, and Willie Gault went deep on me and I missed the ball by about six inches,” Taylor said last week. “I was like, ‘Well, I’m not going to make it,’ and Dan Hampton gave me a ride to the facility. He said, ‘I think you’re going to make it,’ and I said, ‘No, I got beat by Willie Gault.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, but really nobody in the NFL can be that close to him.’ ”

Taylor impressed the coaching staff and joined the Bears for the 1985 season. He played in all 16 regular-season games as a cornerback and returner, getting three interceptions and forcing three fumbles. Taylor played 14 games with the Chargers during the 1986 season before ending his NFL career.

After three surgeries to repair cartilage in his knees and career-threatening disk injuries in his back, he timed his retirement perfectly, stepping away from football on his own terms and without any irreversible damage.

“I had a very large back injury, at the same time that Joe Montana had his back injury,” Taylor said. “They sent me up to San Francisco to see the same doctor he was seeing. The doctor told me at that time, ‘OK, you have a 20 percent chance of being paralyzed if you get hit just right,’ and I was like, ‘I’m out.’ I was done.”

Taylor has stayed connected to athletics since retirement.

With a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science and biomechanical movement, Taylor specializes in sports speed training and has helped more than 5,000 athletes become faster with less effort over the last 30 years. One of his clients is Singletary.

As a multisport athlete growing up, he had to find techniques that combined power, speed and perfect timing to succeed.

Now he’s passing on his knowledge to younger generations.

“Kids today are so busy working hard,” Taylor said. “They’re doing weight-lifting, box jumps, pushing sleds and getting better and better at putting their body in the wrong position. Their timing is off. If you’re a baseball player and you’re swinging the bat perfectly at the wrong time, you can’t hit the ball well.

“I get kids who are good kids and straight-A students, and they’re getting really good at having their timing be off. Sometimes by an inch, a mile per hour. So I just help them organize their bodies and the strength they already have so they can become smoother and more efficient. And when that happens, you become faster, you don’t work as hard, you can think cleaner and you can think clearer while in motion.”

Taylor doesn’t catch many Bears games these days because he lives in the San Diego area and most of his private training sessions take place on Sundays. But when he does see the current version of his former team play, he notices the comparisons to his Super Bowl-winning — and dancing — team.

“They have all the elements we had in 1985,” Taylor said. “The defense makes stops, and they’re taking pride in making stops. Every offensive team is going to score, but if you can get some stops at key times, you’ve got a good chance of winning, and I think this team is set for another Super Bowl win.”