Saturday, November 27, 2010

Three Years Later, Sean Taylor's Death Still Cuts Deep

It’s been three years since a great free safety was taken from us far too early. Sean Taylor was born April 1, 1983. He was only 24 when he was murdered in his Miami home on November 27, 2007. It wasn’t quite the shot heard around the world, but it was certainly a shot heard around DC.

Taylor played his college football at the University of Miami and was a member of the Hurricanes’ 2001 national championship team. In his junior year, Taylor was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s bet defensive back. He finished first in the nation in interceptions (10) and tackles (77). He scored three touchdowns off of interceptions that season.

Following his junior year, Taylor entered the 2004 NFL Draft and was taken fifth overall by the Washington Redskins. He then signed a seven-year, 18 million dollar contract with the team. Taylor had a successful rookie season, emerging as the Redskins’ starting free safety by the third game. However, signs of trouble off the field surfaced as he received a $25,000 fine from the league for missing part of the mandatory rookie symposium.

2005 followed the same trend of on field success with some off field turmoil. He was ejected and fined $17,000 for spitting at an opposing player during the wild card game against Tampa Bay. Taylor was also fined earlier in the season for dress code violations. The 2006 season was a breakout year for Taylor as he shined on a struggling Redskins defense. He was named to the 2006 Pro Bowl, his first and only appearance.

While Taylor’s continued success built him up as a fan favorite in Washington, he had several altercations with the law while playing for the Redskins. In 2004 he was arrested in Virginia for a DUI. The charges were eventually dropped because after he refused the breathalyzer, there was no hard evidence of intoxication.

He was also arrested in Miami for armed assault in 2005. Taylor reportedly pointed a gun at a man over a dispute over two ATVs. Taylor claimed they were stolen. The charges were eventually dropped as part of a plea bargain that involved Taylor donating his time to charities and donating $1,000 toward scholarships in 10 different southern Florida schools.

In 2007, Taylor seemed to turn a corner personally. His teammates noticed a newfound maturity that they attributed to the birth of his daughter. He was quoted as saying "[Y]ou play a kid's game for a king's ransom. And if you don't take it serious enough, eventually one day you're going to say, 'Oh, I could have done this, I could have done that.'" Taylor had seemed to finally have straightened out him life.

On November 18th, Taylor’s Miami home was broken into. He went back to stay there with his longtime girlfriend and daughter to make sure nothing happened if the perpetrators returned. At about 1:45 a.m. the morning of November 27, Taylor was shot after people broke into him home. He was taken to the hospital and operated on, but Sean Taylor was pronounced dead at 3:30.

Taylor’s death rocked the DC area. There was a tremendous outpouring of sympathy as the community mourned a fan favorite. It hit hard that his star in the league was on such a high rise at the time of his death. What is most tragic about this crime is that he seemed to just be hitting his stride as a player and a person when he was murdered.

The community mourned Sean Taylor like he was their own. I personally went to a private high school, and we had to wear a uniform every day. However, after Taylor was killed, we had a day where we were allowed to wear burgundy and gold. This is an honor we did only after major tragedies such as the Virginia Tech shooting and 9/11. That is how important his death was to the DC metro area.

Not only was his killing a moral hit for the team and the fan base, but it was a big hit on the field as well. Multiple people tried to take over his role as a defensive leader, but it has yet to really fall into place even three years later.

The Redskins are still missing Taylor’s presence on defense and his spirit in the locker room. Sean Taylor will always remain in the hearts and minds of the fans and team as a talent that was taken away from us far too soon. Rest in peace, Sean Taylor. You will never be forgotten.

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