Sean Taylor, 1983-2007
Sean Michael Maurice Taylor, hardhitting Pro Bowl free safety of the Washington Redskins, one of the most feared tacklers in the National Football League, died last night from injuries caused by a gunshot wound to the upper leg.
The son of a south Florida police chief Sean was an exciting two way player in high school, playing running back, linebacker and defensive back who led Gulliver Prep in Miami to a Florida 2A state championship in 2000. He was the consensus top college recruit in the state of Florida and at least one publication had him as the number one skill position recruit in the nation.
At the University of Miami Sean was a standout defensive back on the Hurricanes' 2001 national championship team as a true freshman, led all Miami players in tackles in 2002 and in 2003 was consensus first team All-American, was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year and led the nation in interceptions per game.
Sean elected to give up his final year of NCAA eligibility to enter the NFL draft where the Washington Redskins selected him fifth overall in the 2004 NFL draft, choosing Sean over University of Miami teammate tight end Kellen Winslow Junior. Wearing number 36 for his rookie year Sean started 13 games, was second on the team in interceptions, and recorded 76 tackles, two forced fumbles and a sack on the number three defense in the league. By the end of his rookie season Sean was widely known as a fierce hitter.
The following season in 2005 Sean switched to number 21 and in 15 games all of which were starts tallied 70 tackles on the number nine defense in the league. In the 7 January 2006 wildcard playoff game at Tampa Bay Sean scooped up a fumble by Buccaneers tailback Carnell Williams that had been fumbled again by Redskins linebacker Marcus Washington and ran it back 51 yards for a touchdown to help the Redskins win their first playoff game in six years, a game in which the Redskins offense could only muster 120 total yards.
As the 2006 Redskins defense sank to number 31 overall Sean led the team with 111 tackles while starting all 16 games and was named to his first and only Pro Bowl.
With the arrival of rookie LaRon Landry in 2007 Sean was able to move back to his natural position of free safety, ranging as a 'center field' defender and was able to affect the decision making of every opponent with the ball. Even after missing two games with a sprained knee Sean is as of this moment tied for third most interceptions in the league.
Sean was not without controversy. His run ins with the team, the league and the law included leaving the mandatory rookie summer orientation camp and a DUI arrest (both charges were later dropped) in 2004, two incidents, one alleged and one confirmed, of spitting on another player (he was ejected from the Tampa Bay playoff game), felony gun charges arising from an alleged theft of his property in Miami, not returning offseason phone calls from Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs and skipping minicamp, all in 2005 and being generally unreachable in the 2007 offseason. At times Sean seemed not to be entirely truthful with the team. All told Sean was fined more than 122 thousand dollars by the league.
Early Monday morning, 26 November 2007, approximately 1:30 am Sean was awakened to the sounds of an intruder or intruders in his Miami home where he had returned from Washington to attend to matters involving repeated breakins or breakin attempts. Sean was shot in his bedroom, the bullet severing the femoral artery in his leg, the assailant fled taking nothing, a cut phone line forced Sean's fiancee to call 911 on her mobile phone, Sean was airlifted to a Miami hospital where he underwent seven hours of surgery. Weak from trauma and loss of blood Sean died some time before 5:30 am on Tuesday 27 November 2007. Sean leaves behind a fiancee and an 18 month old daughter.
Sean Taylor was 24.
Wikipedia page. Washington Post.
Image of Sean Taylor leaving the field at Redskins Stadium for the last time on 11 November 2007, photo courtesy of Chris aka ctankcycles. Chris' excellent photography can be seen here.