Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Sean Taylor began his high school football career at Miami Killian Senior High School and finished at Gulliver Prep, a private school in Pinecrest, Fla. Taylor played running back and defensive back-linebacker at Gulliver and helped lead the team to the 2A state championship in 2000.
Taylor ran for 1,300 yards and a state-record 44 touchdowns that season, including three in the state final victory over Marianna. Taylor twice rushed for more than 400 yards as a senior and had more than 200 tackles playing defensive back and linebacker.
The Miami Herald rated Taylor the top prospect in Miami-Dade County; he was named the top high school player in the state by many other in-state publications.
Gulliver Prep's Web site paid tribute to Taylor, calling him "a proud member of the Gulliver community." According to the site, Taylor maintained strong ties to Gulliver even after he turned professional, going back to the school to autograph memorabilia for students at the beginning of his career.
"We are all deeply saddened by this senseless tragedy," the site reads. "Gulliver sends its condolences to the Taylor family, his loved ones, and his fans. He will be missed."
Taylor began his football career at the University of Miami amid much fanfare, and he matched those expectations by becoming one of four non-redshirt freshmen to play during the national championship season. He contributed primarily in nickel and dime packages as the Hurricanes went 12-0 and beat Nebraska in the Rose Bowl, 34-17.
Taylor's game-changing aptitude was never more apparent than during his final season with the Hurricanes. He returned three interceptions for touchdowns as a junior to set a school record, including a 67-yarder against Boston College in a 33-14 victory and another 50 yards in a 22-14 win against Florida State during the regular season.
In the final game of his college career, Taylor had three tackles and helped the ninth-ranked Hurricanes defeat No. 8 Florida State, 16-14, in the Orange Bowl.
The safety's college career culminated with him being named Big East defensive player of the year. During his final season, he tied a school record with 10 interceptions, led division I-A in interceptions per game (0.83) and was a consensus first-team all-American.
"Sean to me was a very shy kid, a bashful kid, a very quiet kid, not saying a lot," former Hurricanes coach Larry Coker said in an ESPN Radio interview, "but when he spoke his teammates listened, and he spoke very loudly by the way he played on the field."
As a sophomore, Taylor was voted first-team all-Big East by the conference's coaches after his first season as a full-time starter. He was third on Miami in tackles with 85, had 15 pass breakups, four interceptions and returned a punt for a touchdown.
Taylor may have had the most memorable performance of his college career that season in the Fiesta Bowl. In a 31-24 loss to Ohio State, he recorded a career-high 11 tackles and intercepted two passes.
Sean Taylor entered the 2004 NFL draft after his junior year at Miami, and the Washington Redskins selected him fifth overall. Taylor was the first defensive player picked in the draft and the highest defensive selection for the Redskins since LaVar Arrington went second overall in 2000.
"Obviously, safety is a place where you say that has to be an unusual person there" to merit the fifth pick, Coach Joe Gibbs said after the Redskins selected Taylor over Miami teammate Kellen Winslow, a tight end. "But we felt like he was very unusual."
The Redskins were intent on addressing defense in the draft after they finished 25th out of 32 teams in yards allowed per game. Taylor started 13 games as a rookie, and he made an immediate impact as the Redskins finished third that season in yards allowed.
Taylor also quickly earned a reputation as a fierce -- and perhaps reckless -- hitter. In a Dec. 12, 2004, game against the Eagles, wide receiver Todd Pinkston pulled up running a route in Taylor's area. That prompted Redskins defensive players to surmise that Pinkston feared getting clobbered.
"I don't want to call Todd out like that, but it could have been," Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs said. "Sean makes people think twice."
Twice the NFL fined Taylor for late hits in 2004; those transgressions cost him $17,500. Taylor had a stretch of four consecutive games that season in which he was assessed a personal foul or league fine. Taylor nonetheless was named a first alternate to the Pro Bowl.
In 2005, Taylor had a career-high three forced fumbles and returned another fumble for a touchdown in the Redskins' 31-20 victory over Philadelphia to end the regular season on a five-game winning streak. He added nine tackles in that game.
Taylor's most memorable regular season moment last year came in a 22-19 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, when he returned a blocked field goal 30 yards to set up the Redskins' winning kick as time expired.
This season Taylor was playing perhaps the best football of his career before a knee injury kept him out the past two games. He is tied for second in the league with five interceptions and is fifth on the Redskins with 42 tackles.
"He was kind of like a wild child, like myself, but life changed for Sean after he had his baby girl. Fatherhood really changed him. He grew up and matured. That baby had transformed his life. Working out with him during the offseason, I witnessed a change. You could see it like night and day. I feel so bad for the family."
- Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey
"Sean has been a close friend of mine since our days at the University of Miami. He was a great teammate and an even greater person. It is so hard for me to fathom that I am not going to be able to pick up the phone to call him."
- Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma
"It's a tough time for me right now. Sean was really like a brother to me. We were classmates and teammates at UM [the University of Miami, along with Shockey] and he was a guy that just loved football and loved being around his friends. I feel for his family. I know his dad real well, and I feel for his baby girl. He was so proud of his little girl, and it's just so sad that he's no longer here and won't be able to see her grow up. The whole UM family is hurting right now."
- Giants wide receiver Sinorice Moss
"The entire NFL is deeply saddened by the death of Sean Taylor. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to Sean's family, friends, teammates and the Redskins' organization. This is a terrible tragedy involving the loss of a young man who leaves behind many people struggling to understand it. Our office is staying in close contact with the Redskins to provide all appropriate support to the club and Sean's family. We also are working to determine the facts surrounding this tragic event. We will honor the memory of Sean Taylor at all games this weekend."
- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
"He was really maturing. There was like almost a pleasantness about him now. He's a good friend and a good teammate, and to know his ability on the football field, I think he was going to be the best ever by the time he finished, and that's what I wanted for him."
- Former Redskins teammate Lemar Marshall
"The District of Columbia government and its residents are saddened by the tragic loss of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor. He had come to epitomize what a Redskin player should be, hardworking, determined, focused and well respected -- not only by his peers, but by his fans. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sean's family, team members and fans."
- D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty
"Every time they show something about him they show his legalities and things like that, but that's not who he was. It paints a picture like he lived a certain way, so he deserved to go a certain way. But he was a good man and good talent who had become a great man, and I'm sad all the people want to focus on is the negative."
- Former Redskins teammate Ryan Clark
"Sean was a great player, but more importantly a special person. When a senseless tragedy like happens close to home, it really makes you think about the people in your life. This is much bigger than football. Life is precious, and you are reminded of that every day. I know he is in a better place, and my prayers are with his family."
- Former Miami teammate Willis McGahee