By Chris Lehman
There are certain occasions that remind us that sports, as much as we love them, are just sports. Compared to the bigger picture, they should not be taken too seriously. That bigger picture is life.
In his three and a half years in the league, Taylor made the most of his ability. He had been to one Pro Bowl, and in 2007, was voted to his second. However, on November 26th, Taylor’s house was broken into. Due to an injury, he had not traveled with the team, but instead remained at home. Eight days earlier, his home had been broken into and now again on this day, it would happen again. But this time, he was there. In the process of the robbery, Taylor was shot in the femoral artery. He would pass away on the morning of the 27th due to blood loss.
Last Sunday marked the four year anniversary of Sean Taylor’s death. To us football fans, this was the loss of one of the young, emerging stars in the league. Most of us didn’t know him, but to us that wasn’t the important part.
We came to love Taylor as the fearless young Free Safety for the Washington Redskins. The guy who going into the 2007 NFL season was named “The hardest-hitting player in the NFL” according to Sports Illustrated. Not only did opposing players fear being hit by him, but opposing quarterbacks didn’t much like the idea of throwing the ball near him. Taylor demonstrated an unusual combination of a coverage safety and a tackling safety. At 6’2″ with a 39″ vertical, he was able to go up for the ball with the biggest of receivers. His size combined with his speed and tackling ability made him one of the most versatile defenders.
To his family and teammates, however, he meant much more. He left his wife, Jackie Garcia, with a one-year-old daughter. To his teammates, not only was he one of their best players, but one of their close friends. His death was a huge loss to the team and to the NFL. The league would be sure that he was not forgotten. For the Redskins’ game the week after the incident, the defense lined up with ten players for the first play, leaving the free safety spot open. This Sunday marks the four year anniversary of the Redskins’ symbolic act. In addition to the ten man formation, the Redskins’ three other players selected to the Pro Bowl (Chris Cooley, Ethan Albright, and Chris Samuels), each wore a #21 jersey in remembrance of Taylor.
As the fans of sports, we rarely think about players as people with friends and family, but instead as people who are above that and have a sole purpose, that being to play their respective sport. It is rare that they are thought of as regular people, usually taking an event of great significance, such as a death, to make us consider their personal life.
Taylor’s daughter will never have the opportunity to meet her father. But the Washington Redskins have done what they can to ensure that she will know who he was and what he meant to those around him.