Teammates, Friends Eulogize A Man Few Really Knew
MIAMI There was Chad Johnson, backpack in tow, growing animated as he spoke about Sean Taylor, how the young man he came to pay homage to Monday always "had my head on a swivel."
"You know me, I like to talk, I talk so much it's ridiculous," said the loquacious Cincinnati wide receiver, who wore the same clothes to the funeral that he wore Sunday after the Bengals lost in Pittsburgh. "But Sean would be back there woofing. He talked and talked. After a while, you just didn't know what he was going to do.
"What he meant to me as a player, I had to be here."
There was Sinorice Moss, Taylor's teammate at the University of Miami and younger brother of Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss, sharing his memory of Taylor causing the Hurricanes' locker room to break into laughter.
"Don't get me wrong, people feared him," said Sinorice, now a wide receiver with the New York Giants. "But that side never came out when the game was over. Sean was always getting us to joke and smile. I know you didn't see that, but I did."
The memorial service had been over about 30 minutes, a service in which we learned that what was once a tentative 6-year-old boy, told simply by his uncle to get the guy on the other team with the ball, began bowling over other 6-year-old boys. And then 12-year-olds. And 15-year-olds. Until one day, Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb were running for cover.
We were told Sean was so smitten the moment he met Jackie Garcia in high school that he came home that night to his grandmother and said, in exasperation, "I need to learn Spanish."
How his pastor asked him one day at an IHOP in the District, "Why did you hit that Pro Bowl punter?" And how Sean replied, "Pastor, I just get paid to put 'em on the ground."
As these rich, honest pieces of Sean Taylor's life kept being revealed, peeled back, layer after layer, the only emotions that rose up were regret and sadness.
Regret because only now do we finally get the most revealing, personal portrait of the enigmatic young man who played free safety so brilliantly for the Washington Redskins. And sadness because the stories told of Taylor in a campus gymnasium turned funeral parlor were stories that should have been told at his Hall of Fame induction or, for goodness sake, the man's wedding.
The hard truth: We know more about Sean Taylor in death than life.
And there is something so wrong about that, that all the voids and vacancy needed to color in who Taylor was, what he was truly about, are presented in full as we mourn his loss.