Catching up with ... former Colt Tim Baylor, the tallest NFL safety there ever was

At 6 feet, 6 inches, former Colt Tim Baylor was the tallest safety in NFL history.

Tiny Tim, he wasn't. At 6-foot-6, the Colts' Tim Baylor towered over rivals, the tallest safety ever to play in the NFL.

"I didn't know that until several years ago," Baylor, 62, said from his home in Minnesota. "It's noteworthy, I guess, but I'm proudest that I could just make it to the pros."

A 10th round draft pick from Morgan State, he played three years in Baltimore (1976-78), starred on special teams and helped the Colts to two division titles. Manic on kickoffs, Baylor raced downfield and barreled into blockers, creating havoc.

"My job was to get downfield, bust the wedge and make something happen — and oftentimes that came with quite a bit of contact," he said. "Sacrificing my body was not a concern."

Rail-thin at 190 pounds, Baylor bore a skeletal physique. College teammates called him "Bones." To the Colts, he was "Stick Man." When, during a rookie game against the Philadelphia Eagles, he skied to block an extra point attempt in a 21-20 victory, coaches took note.

"His big frame should be an aid," Frank Lauterbur, a Colts' assistant, opined. "He doesn't have any awkwardness about him."

On defense, Baylor played nickelback on passing downs.

"My height was a plus for blocking kicks, but a disadvantage when covering a 5-foot-10 wide receiver, man-to-man," he said. "A smaller guy is quicker and more agile, so I had to exaggerate my crouch, lower my base and increase the angles to keep up. I made up for the rest with my stride."

A native of Washington, D.C., Baylor starred for four years at Morgan State, long a gateway to the pros.

"I liked Papa Bear [Coach Earl Banks] — he was a no-nonsense kind of guy — and I knew the team's pedigree," he said. On campus, he met a professor, Dr. Ralph Jones, who led Baylor into real estate investment. As a Colt, Baylor took night classes at the University of Baltimore, earned his broker license and sold homes to several players.

Released by the team in 1979, he played briefly with the Minnesota Vikings, retired and settled there. A civic leader, Baylor owns a real estate development company and six McDonald's restaurants in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Football prepared him for success, he said.

"Training camp is a metaphor for life. You set goals and use discipline and determination to get there," he said. "I enjoy the challenge of putting [business] teams together and watching them perform consistently."

In 2006, he entered politics, ran for lieutenant governor of Minnesota as a Democrat and lost.

Married 38 years, Baylor met his wife, Doris, an English major, while attending Morgan State.

"It was a blind date," he remembered. "I took her to Hasslinger's, my favorite place on Hillen Road, which had the best seafood subs in town."

With age came heft. Now 250 pounds, Baylor works out regularly, walks/runs three miles a day and, on occasion, plays pick-up basketball with other middle-aged guys.

"I live by the adage, 'Know thyself, and nothing in excess,'" he said.

In hindsight, he'd like to have played football longer. He retired at 26.

"I embraced what I learned from the Colts' other defensive backs — Nelson Munsey, Doug Nettles, Norm Thompson, Lloyd Mumphord and Bruce Laird," he said. "I wish that, when I left the Vikings, I had tried one or two more NFL teams. But I decided to move on and try my hand at life."

There are scars from olden days. Baylor had arthroscopic surgery on both knees and shoulders, as well as carpal tunnel surgery on both hands.

"And when they can do a brain replacement, I'll probably get one of them, too," he said in jest.

Bowing out of the business world is in the offing, Baylor said:

"My son, Justin, now runs the day-to-day stuff. I'm looking forward to him taking over so that I can buy a boat and sail up and down the Chesapeake Bay. Sailing would be both a lot of work and a lot of fun — and that's what I like about it."

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect name of Tim Baylor's wife. The Sun regrets the error. 

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