Sean Taylor: Gone Too Soon

RIP #21

I’m going to tell you something that might surprise you, might actually shock you to your core. I have a heart and I can be a good person. I know you need a moment to let that sink in. It actually pains me to write about this. 2007 was a pretty good year for me: I turned eighteen, graduated high school, and really started to learn about my love for sports. Unfortunately, 2007 was also the year a tragedy rocked the Washington Redskins and sports fans everywhere. The death of Sean Taylor, a player who had so much potential and so much life ahead of him. Yes, it hurts my heart to sit here and type this but it hurt more to live through it…..

Sean Michael Maurice Taylor was born in Florida City, Florida on April 1, 1983 to Pedro Taylor and Donna Junor. When he was young his family moved to a low-income neighborhood in Miami where he would attend Miami Killian High School where he started playing football. He later transferred to Gulliver Preparatory School where he excelled at football, track, and basketball. Here he played running back, defensive back, and linebacker, he was a star on both sides of the ball. By his senior year of high school Sean Taylor was considered the number one prospect in Miami-Dade County. 

Taylor would go on to attend the University of Miami where he would play football while also being a member of the track and field team. During his freshman year Taylor made a name of himself on the Hurricane’s special teams. Sean Taylor was named Special Teams Player of The Week for his performance against the Pittsburgh Panthers. That same year the Miami Hurricanes won the national championship. 2002 was Taylor’s first season as a starter for the University of Miami. That year he led defensive backs in tackles, interceptions, and broken up passes. Sean Taylor’s most outstanding and final season with Miami was in 2003. 

He was named a unanimous first-team All-American, the Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Year and a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award (which is given to the nation’s best defensive back). He led the Big East Conference and ranked first nationally with ten interceptions, tying the record for interceptions in a single season with former Hurricanes star Bennie Blades. Taylor also finished first in total tackles with a total of seventy-seven. At the close of the 2003 season Taylor announced that he would be entering the 2004 NFL draft.  

Sean Taylor was selected in the first round by the Washington Redskins and on July 27, 2004 they signed Taylor to a six year 18.5-million-dollar contract. On August 9, 2004 Sean Taylor made his NFL debut against the Denver Broncos. Before the start of the 2005 season Taylor changed his jersey number from thirty-six to twenty-one which became available after cornerback Fred Smooth was sent to play doe the Minnesota Vikings. When Fred Smoot returned to Washington in 2007, he opted to wear number twenty-seven so Taylor could keep number twenty-one. On January 7, 2006 Sean Taylor started in his first career playoff game.  

During this game Sean Taylor recorded seven combined tackles and returned a fumble recovery for a 51-yard touchdown in the first quarter of their 17–10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although in the third quarter of the game Taylor was ejected for spitting in TB running back Michael Pittman’s face. Hey, we all make mistake and do un desirable things when we get fired up about something. The next day the NFL slapped Taylor with a $17,000.00 fine for his action. This was largely due to rumors that Taylor also spat in former NFL player T.J Houshmandzadeh’s (shout out to my fellow ½ Iranian homie. WOOP WOOP!) face during his rookie year. Action was never taken against him for that incident because the NFL could not get clear video footage.  I’m just trying to make light of a sad article. If you don’t have laughter to get through tough things than what do you have? 

Redskins head coach at the time Joe Gibbs, named Taylor the starting free safety of the 2006 season. That season was an amazing one for him and it was this season that former Redskins assistant coach called Sean Taylor the best athlete he has ever coached. Throughout the season Washington had a struggling, weak, pathetic, and atrocious defensive unit (I might be exaggerating just a bit). Despite all this Sean Taylor always found a way to shine and get his big plays in. Before the start of the 2007 season “Sports Illustrated”, named Taylor the hardest hitting player in the NFL. He did put his body on the line, dude went hard as hell when he was on the field. This year would be the last chance we would have to get a glimpse of Sean Taylor in action because that November tragedy struck the Taylor family, Washington Redskins, and the NFL.

On November 18, 2007 burglars pried open the window of the Taylor family’s Palmetto Bay home. They made it inside rifling through a desk and safe. They were scoping out the house they later planned on returning to for their big score. The group returned to the property on November 26, 2007 expecting Sean Taylor to be in Tampa Bay with the rest of the Washington Redskins. However, Taylor was home with a knee injury. To the intruder’s surprise Taylor met them at his bedroom door with a machete in hand. Sean Taylor heard the noises coming from inside his home and in an attempt to protect his fiancée Jackie Garcia and their eighteen-month-old daughter also named Jackie, he decided to go investigate. Having been caught off guard one of the intruder’s fired a gun they brought along striking Taylor in the groin and severing his femoral artery, just feet away from his young daughter. The intruders fled and Garcia called authorities. 

Sean Taylor was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami; he was bleeding severely and was suffering from extreme blood loss. Taylor was sent to emergency surgery and made it through safely. A family member even told the media that Taylor squeezed the doctor’s hands after coming out of the operating room, a tiny gesture that gave them a lot of hope. After clinging to life for nearly twenty-four hours Sean Taylor, Washington’s beloved free safety passed away on November 27, 2007 at around three thirty in the morning. Taylor was only twenty-four years old. The Redskins played the rest of the season in honor of Taylor and during the first play of the first game after his death they lined up with only six players on the field, leaving Sean Taylor’s safety slot empty. At the time of his death Sean Taylor was tied for the most interceptions in the National Football Conference (NFC), despite having missed weeks eleven and twelve with a knee injury. On December 18, 2007, Taylor was posthumously voted to his second Pro Bowl, becoming the first deceased player in NFL history to be elected to the Pro Bowl. During the game, the Redskins players who had been selected, Chris Samuels, Chris Cooley and Ethan Albright, wore #21 in honor of their teammate.  Like the Redskins had done earlier in the season, the NFC lined up with just one safety on the first play of the game.

What started out as just a hunt for the intruders of a breaking and entering situation soon became a homicide investigation. On November 30, 2007, Venjah K. Hunte, Eric Rivera, Jr., Jason Scott Mitchell, and Charles Kendrick Lee Wardlow were arrested in relation to the murder. All four men were between the ages of seventeen and twenty. After being taken into custody more than one of the men confessed. All were charged with felony second-degree murder, armed burglary and home invasion robbery with a firearm, charges which carried a maximum of life in prison. During his confession Eric Rivera Jr. Admitted to being the one who fired the fatal shot. In May 2008 sixteen-year-old Timothy Brown was arrested and charged with first degree murder as the fifth suspect in the case. All the murder charges were subsequently increased to first-degree murder. On May 12, 2008, it was announced the suspects, if convicted, would not face the death penalty, but may be subjected to life imprisonment because the suspected gunman, Eric Rivera, was only seventeen at the time of the shooting .

On May 15, 2008, Venjah Hunte, one of the five suspects in Taylor’s murder, accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to 29 years in prison. His punk ass was too scared to go trial and possibly get life without parole, bitch ass. Just kidding, I probably would have done the same thing, shoot I’m too big of a baby to go to prison for the rest of my life. After being postponed multiple times, Eric Rivera Jr.’s trial started on October 15, 2013.This is why it takes so damn long for people to go trial sometimes, there are so many legal reasons that a trial can get pushed back, it is crazy. On November fourth (that’s my wedding anniversary!), a jury found Eric Rivera, Jr. guilty of second-degree murder and armed burglary, which could carry a life imprisonment sentence. On January 23, 2014, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy sentenced Rivera to fifty-seven years in prison. On June tenth, Jason Scott Mitchell was convicted in Taylor’s murder and was given a life sentence. On April 1, 2015, Charles Wardlow, the fourth person charged with the death of Taylor, was sentenced to thirty years in prison. One week later, the final suspect, Timmy Lee Brown, was sentenced to eighteen years in prison under his plea agreement. 

On November 30, 2008 Sean Taylor was posthumously inducted as the forty third member into the Washington Redskins Ring of Fame. On June 15, 2019, the New York Giants announced safety Landon Collins would switch from No. 27 to No. 21 to honor Taylor. On November 2, 2017, just days before the tenth anniversary of Sean Taylor’s passing, the Washington Redskins once again lined up with only six men on the field for the first play of the game. They had only one free safety out there with them, again leaving Taylor’s safety spot empty, a reminder to the world that Sean Taylor has left a hole in the Washington Redskins, one that can never be filled.

The world was robbed of a star free safety and hard hitter. All we are left with are “what ifs” and thoughts of where Sean Taylor would be today in the world of the NFL. Hug your family, your friends, anyone you love just a little tighter today, and let them know that you care. Things can be taken away in the blink of an eye for no rhythm or reason. It doesn’t make it right and it certainly isn’t fair…. but life rarely is.

Sources:

“10 Years Ago” – Miami Herald

“The Big 20” – NBC Sports

 

 

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