Roosevelt “Rosey” Taylor, the star safety whose best season helped propel the Bears to the 1963 NFL championship, died Friday at 82. He had experienced a long hospitalization for pneumonia before returning home to be with his family, according to WGNO-TV in his hometown of New Orleans.
Taylor, who played for the Bears from 1961 to 1969, was at his best during the championship season. He tied for the NFL lead with nine interceptions — at the time, a Bears record — and added an additional three takeaways on fumble recoveries in 1963. Three of those interceptions came against the Packers. He returned an interception against the 49ers for a 30-yard touchdown — one of the three pick-sixes he’d total in his Bears career — in the second-to-last week of the season.
The 11-1-2 Bears won all eight games in which he picked off a pass during the 1963 season. He was named a first-team All-Pro by four groups, including the Associated Press, and made his first Pro Bowl.
Taylor was named a second-team All-Pro the next two seasons. In 1968, he reached his second Pro Bowl. Midway through the next season, the Bears traded him and a fifth-round pick to the 49ers for guard Howard Mudd.
He spent 2 1/2 years in San Francisco and his last season, in 1972, with the Redskins. He started at free safety for Washington in Super Bowl VII. The Redskins’ 14-7 loss to the undefeated Dolphins was the last game of Taylor’s 13-year career.
The Chicago Sun-Times ranked Taylor the 37th-best Bear of all time in a 2019 story.
He never missed a game with the Bears, playing all 118 contests over 8 1/2 years. Twenty-three of his 32 career interceptions came playing for the franchise.
Taylor retired to New Orleans after his playing career. He became a businessman, investing in everything from ice cream parlors to lounges.
Taylor, who grew up in the Lower Ninth Ward, was a member of the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and the Grambling Legends Hall of Fame.
He attended Grambling University — now Grambling State — where he was cut by the basketball team twice, walked onto the football team and became a star. In 1960, he helped lead the Tigers and legendary coach Eddie Robinson to the school’s first SWAC championship. The Bears signed him as an undrafted free agent the next year.
His son, Brian, appeared in eight NFL games, rushing two times for seven yards as a member of the 1989 Bears. He and wife Claudia were parents to one son and two daughters.
Taylor’s death marked the second blow to the Bears family in 13 days. On May 16, Michael McCaskey, the former Bears chairman and first-born child of matriarch Virginia McCaskey, died of cancer at 76.