13 years ago today, Washington Redskins safety passed away in a fatal shooting.
The young safety, only 24 at the time of the incident was on the cusp of NFL stardom. He was named to his first pro bowl the year prior in 2006.
Despite Taylors passing, his life and legacy live on in the lives of his teammates, competitors and family.
Legends never die.
Taylor entered the league after his junior season at the University of Miami. In his first season with the Hurricanes, he played played sparsely for the team after securing a spot as the team’s backup secondary. That year Miami captured their 5th national title and have yet to recreate the magic since.
In his 2nd season he was promoted to starter and was named to the All-Big East second team after ranking 1st on Miami for tackles, interceptions and passes broken up.
His last season with Miami saw him gain national recognition being awarded the Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Year and was a unanimous first team All-American. He tied the national record for interceptions in a season at 10 with former Miami standout Bennie Blades and also returned recorded 3 pick-6’s.
The breakout season led to Taylor being selected by the Washington Redskins with the 5th pick in the 2004 NFL draft.
Washington immediately signed Taylor to a deal, snagging up the star studded safety to a 6 year, $18.5 million contract that was worth up to $40 million with bonuses and incentives.
His first season with the Redskins was riddled with off the field drama including the firing and eventual rehiring of his agents due to contract disputes. He was able to become a starter in just his 3rd game.
Taylor’s second season saw him change jersey numbers to the famous 21 that hangs in the Redskins ring of fame.
The squad saw their record improve by 4 games as Washington went 10-6 to clinched a spot in the 2005 wildcard game, their first postseason appearance since 1999. They made it to the divison playoffs against the Seahawks where their playoff journey was cut short in a 20-10 loss.
His penultimate year with Washington is when Taylor made a name for himself. He was voted NFC Defensive Player of the Week after a game against the Panthers where Taylor recorded 5 combined tackles, 2 pass deflections and a late interception to seal the game.
The Redskins struggled and missed the playoffs but Sean Taylor’s impact was acknowledged with his first pro-bowl nod. He gained notoriety with a nasty hit to Bills punter Brian Moorman, as the pro-bowl is known for its less competitive exhibition nature.
Taylor had a reputation for his monstrous hits as he earned the nickname “Meast” meaning half-man and half beast by his teammates.
Entering his 4th and what would be his last season the Washington, Taylor had what appeared to he an epiphany after the birth of his daughter, stating prior to the season “You 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.'”
Washington used Taylor as a free safety with less direct defensive responsibility and he flourished in the role. He was tied for the league lead in interceptions while missing 2 games to injury.
On November 26th, a day after the teams loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Taylor was woken up by the sound of loud noises in his home. He proceeded to investigate when he was shot in the leg, severing a femoral artery where he eventually succumbed to his wound due to blood loss the next day. A little over a week prior burglars had pried open a window in a vacant Taylor household.
The remembrance of the up and coming star safety was shared throughout league in the coming weeks.
All teams wore the #21 on the back of helmets for week 13 games and were optional for future games and a moment of silence was shared before each game.
On December 2nd against the Bills, Washington began the game with 10 members on the field in honor, players on both team signaled to the air his numbers of 2 and 1 and a tribute video played.
He was also posthumously named to the 2007 pro-bowl and All-Pro 2nd team.
Following the his death, including the loss to the Bills, the Redskins went on a 4 game win streak to secure a spot in the NFC Wild Card where they fell once again to the Seahawks.
To this day Taylor is survived by his formee fiancée Jackie Garcia and daughter. His time spent in the echelon of NFL stardom was cut short but the Meast had a career which is something that many defensive backs still aspire to be to this day.
The intensity, energy and passion combined with the glorious college resume is what made Sean Taylor the man he was and who is celebrated to this day.
Legends never die.