Complexities Surround Redskins' Taylor
Friday, June 17, 2005
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Sean Taylor's silver BMW 760, its tinted windows down, was parked diagonally on a long patch of grass in the searing South Florida heat outside a modest, one-story home in this tiny municipality. Parked nearby was Taylor's blue 2005 GMC Yukon Denali sport utility vehicle -- with two bullet holes in its side.
The cars were the only signs that the Washington Redskins' safety was inside the home, where he frequently spends the night with his mother and great-grandmother -- and of the events the night of June 1 that led to his legal troubles.
An acquaintance said that Taylor also spent time in a luxury hotel in Miami or with friends. But after concluding his rookie season in January, Taylor has largely stayed at his mother's home, three miles from where his father Pete is chief of police in Florida City. It is a world away from the fast-paced life of Miami 30 miles to the north where Taylor starred for the University of Miami, and from Redskins Park, which Taylor has studiously avoided this offseason, much to the dismay of his team and coach, Joe Gibbs.
Last week, Taylor, 22, had his first telephone conversation with Gibbs in six months. It was arranged by Taylor's agent in the aftermath of Taylor's arrest June 4 on two felony charges of aggravated assault with a firearm and simple battery, the outcome of a dispute over two stolen all-terrain vehicles owned by Taylor. Because of his legal problems, Gibbs excused the 6-foot-2, 231-pound defensive back from the team's three-day minicamp, which will begin Friday at the Redskins' practice facility in Ashburn. Taylor is scheduled to be arraigned next Friday.
Taylor, a Miami native who starred at Gulliver Prep High, didn't emerge from his mother's home late last week despite numerous requests for an interview left on his phone or through his parents and representatives. However, one person aware of his whereabouts said that Taylor was staying there and laying low.
Taylor's mother, Donna Junor, ambled in her carefully kept front yard -- enclosed by a five-foot fence -- when a reporter approached the gate. Junor, 43, politely declined an interview and promptly re-entered her home as a dark gray pit bull thrust its paws against the fence while barking loudly.
Taylor has not spoken with the media since before Oct. 28, when he was arrested on charges of driving while intoxicated on the Beltway in Virginia. He was acquitted of those charges in January.
But in interviews, people who know Taylor -- former teammates, friends, educators, neighbors, associates and police officers -- painted a complex picture of the safety who had never lived outside Miami until the Redskins selected him with the fifth overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft. They portrayed Taylor as a good-natured, family-oriented man who has used his status and local celebrity to make appearances in the community, and begun giving donations to organizations for the underprivileged.
Some who know him, however, said Taylor has also shown a stubborn, recalcitrant side, resisting adult guidance -- including from his parents -- while cavorting with sycophants, some with a dark side. "Punks and wannabe thugs," said one former neighbor who declined to give his name.
Almost everyone interviewed expressed surprise at the severity of the charges against Taylor, who had never been charged with a crime in Florida. Nonetheless, some said they felt that it was only a matter of time before Taylor became embroiled in a predicament stemming from his immaturity and association with longtime buddies he feels loyalty toward.
"Sean is not the type of guy everyone is making him out to be. Sean is not a bad guy," said Arizona Cardinals rookie cornerback Antrel Rolle, a former Miami teammate who has known Taylor since they were 6. "Sean has a big heart and a lot of great qualities. But his friend selection is not good. I don't think that most of his friends have any positive influence."
Rolle continued: "You shouldn't change completely just because you become famous. Even after this incident, he shouldn't be restricted. He just should have second thoughts about his decision-making. He just makes the wrong decisions, and doesn't think of the consequences. I don't think some of his friends are man enough to tell him. They're just in his corner whether his decision is right or wrong."