Warrior. Future Hall of Famer. Tough. Brave.
All of these words can be said about Sean Taylor, who broke out as part of the the University of Miami Hurricanes and was on pace to become one of the many Hall of Famers and first round draft picks in the NFL before his life was abruptly ended.
It was six years ago today that the NFL and all of its fans lost the Washington Redskins safety.
On November 26, 2007, Taylor along with his girlfriend and daughter Jackie were awakened to the sound of intruders. The robbers thought the 24-year-old was with the Redskins but, once one of the men, Eric Rivera Jr., entered the room, he shot two bullets towards Taylor who had already grabbed his machete he kept in his room for protection.
One bullet flew by the free safety, but the second one caught Taylor in the femoral artery, which is located in the leg. The significant blood loss led to him becoming unconscious and he passed away the next day.
He was shot in his Miami home and, even though it was during the NFL season, Taylor and his family returned home, as he did not need to attend the Redskins next game due to a knee injury.
Before having his child, Taylor had some off-the-field problems, including a gun incident and him spitting into the face of Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Michael Pittman during the 2006 playoffs. But the birth of Jackie led to a development of maturity out of the Miami product.
“It’s hard to expect a man to grow up overnight.” said Clinton Portis, the Redskins running back at the time of this tragedy. “But ever since he had his child, it was like a new Sean, and everybody around here knew it. He was always smiling, always happy, always talking about his child.”
River Jr. was convicted of second-degree murder on November 4, 2013. One of the other robbers has pleaded guilty and three others are waiting on a trial.
Santana Moss is still shaken by the incident. “When he passed man, I was a different person,” Moss said in a commemorative video for Taylor.
To honor him, when Moss makes big plays and scores touchdowns he holds up a hand and making the number 21 out of his fingers.
The first game that the Redskins played after losing Taylor, the team began the game with 10 men on the field rather than 11. The players then held the numbers 21 in the air signaling that Taylor was on the field with them.
The Redskins, who were 5-6 at the time finished the season with a 9-7 record, locking up the last playoff spot. A heartbreaking loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs, sending the Redskins home.
While in college, Taylor was alongside future New York Giant, Antrel Rolle, playing for the Miami Hurricanes. He was an All-American in 2003 as well as the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in the same year.
Taylor was selected fifth overall in the 2004 NFL Draft and played just 55 games. He acumulated 302 combined tackles while forcing eight fumbles, sacking the quarterback twice, and intercepting 12 passes. He was selected to be a Pro Bowler in 2006, and was a posthumous selection in 2007.
On November 30, 2008, Taylor was inducted into the Redskins Ring of Fame. Although his number isn’t retired, it has not been worn by another Redskin since he passed away.