So, here I sit, almost a year after one of the saddest days of my life as a Washington Redskins fan. I can’t believe it’s already been a year.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. Nov. 27, 2007, two days after I had celebrated my 33rd birthday. That morning, at 5:45 AM, I was awakened by my alarm and someone on the radio saying, "If what Fox is reporting is true, Sean Taylor has passed."
Tears began to stream down my face as I lay there with my girlfriend, to whom I had suggested just six hours earlier, that if there was anyone who could live through something like this, it was Taylor.
I truly thought he would pull through this. I was still in shock that it had even happened. All I could think about was his little daughter, who had just been born 18 months prior, growing up without her father.
There are several days in sports I will never forget, like that day in June, 1986, when I walked into my kitchen only to see my dad reading the newspaper, and shaking his head. I asked him what was wrong, and all he said was, “Len Bias died last night”.
At first I thought, no way, he’s got to be joking, this can’t be real. But knowing my dad, and the fact we had just gone through the tragic death of my brother’s girlfriend five months before that, I knew he wasn't. Less then 48 hours after being drafted by the NBA champion Boston Celtics, Bias had passed away from an apparent cocaine overdose.
I was only 12-years-old at the time, and I didn’t really understand death, except for the fact it made people, especially my brother, unbelievably upset. So, I just kept asking myself why. Why would God take such a talented athlete, and human being, from this world? His family and friends didn’t do anything to deserve this. It just didn’t make sense to me. It still doesn’t.
Taylor’s death did the same thing to me. Similar questions arose. Why was he even there? Why didn’t he have hired security at his place, especially since it had just been broken into a couple of weeks earlier? Why would these individuals do this? Why am I this affected by the death of someone I didn’t even know? I had that same empty feeling I felt after Bias’ death.
See, most sports fans probably can’t relate to this feeling. I don’t know why, but I seem to attach myself to my favorite athletes, like they’re my best friends. So, when something like this happens, it affects me in a different way. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but it’s just the way I’m built.
At the time, I thought about how these two tragic deaths had very similar characteristics. Two unbelievable athletes, taken from their game before the sports world was able to witness their full potential.
I can only imagine what Taylor would have accomplished, not only professionally, but as a person, if his life hadn’t been cut short. It seemed like he was just starting to mature as an individual, and understand how lucky and needed he was. I’m sure bringing another human into the world will do that to you.
I followed Taylor from the time he was a high-school standout at Gulliver Preparatory School, where he was highly recruited by the University of Miami (I’m a huge ‘Canes fan). His senior year, while playing running back, defensive back, and linebacker, he racked up 1,300 yards rushing, an unbelievable 44 touchdowns, and 100 tackles.
He would eventually attend “The U”, and win a National Championship as a true freshman. During his junior year at Miami, his final year, he was named a consensus first-team All-American, the "Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Year," and he was a finalist for the "Jim Thorpe Award," which is awarded to the nation's best defensive back.
He would be drafted fifth overall by the Redskins that summer, where he would go on to be selected to two Pro Bowls, one of those occurring after his death.
If his high-school and college years, and brief NFL career, were any indications of what was to come, I think Taylor may have gone down as one of the best defensive players in NFL history, with the likes of Dick Butkus, Lawrence Taylor, Mike Singletary, and Deacon Jones.
But now, I can only imagine of what would have been.
Fortunately, the individuals—whose names I won’t mention since I don’t think they belong in the spotlight—that may have committed this crime were caught, and charged, back in December of 2007.
Four of the five suspects await trial, which, originally was scheduled for Apr. 7, 2008, but was postponed to Mar. 3, 2009. Three of the original four suspects were charged with felony second-degree murder, armed burglary, and home invasion with a firearm or another deadly weapon.
The fifth, who was identified after the initial four suspects, was charged with first-degree murder and armed burglary of an occupied dwelling. He’s believed to be the one who pulled the trigger of the murder weapon that killed Taylor.
One of the original four suspects has already entered into a plea bargain, accepting a jail sentence of 29 years. To some, that may seem like 29 years of life that young man will lose, but to me, that’s 29 more years of life he gets, that Sean Taylor doesn’t.
So, with the one-year anniversary of Taylor’s death upon us, and less than a week before he will be inducted into the Redskins' Ring of Fame, I decided to share my thoughts of that tragic day.
In the beginning, I was still asking myself why, not sure I would ever find an answer. Now, almost at the end, and having shed a few more tears along the way, I have my own idea of why he was taken from us too soon.
The man upstairs has been chosen to coach a team of all-time sports all-stars, and Sean Taylor was selected to join.
I miss you Sean, and ‘Skins fans miss you, but I have to say, that’s one heck of a team!