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Sorrow And Hope

Clinton Portis, honoring Sean Taylor.
Clinton Portis, honoring Sean Taylor. "You always think about it," Portis says of his friend's death. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008; Page E01

The Seattle game was over, and a beat-up and bandaged Clinton Portis sat on a stool in a near-empty corridor of Qwest Field. Before he explained how the NFL's leading rusher backpacked his team to victory again, No. 26 spoke of No. 21, whose encased cubicle still sits next to his in memoriam.

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"It's going to be tough, you know, the year anniversary," Portis said. "But really I don't think there's a day that goes by that I don't think about Sean. You always think about it; that ain't gonna never change."

A year ago tomorrow, Portis received the news at 5 a.m. with a knock on his door.

"Sean passed," he was told.

Sean Taylor's death early that morning from a gunshot wound the day before rocked a region and a franchise and sent his best friend on the Washington Redskins into a state of "total shock."

"Where I didn't want to believe it; it just couldn't be true, you know?"

He wept for the 24-year-old safety, remembering how the two University of Miami roughnecks forged a bond in college that transcended forearm shivers, look-at-me touchdowns and a football fraternity known simply as, "The U."

And then, within moments of digesting the tragic news, Portis did what he had to do, what he's always done: He picked himself up. Emotionally.

Having flown to Miami the day of the shooting, Portis began by making tearful calls to teammates, telling them Taylor was gone. He drove across town to comfort Sean's father, Pedro "Pete" Taylor, and, with little sleep, went back to Washington the next morning with Pete and Jackie Garcia, the mother of Taylor's daughter and the woman Taylor hoped to marry.

One year ago, Portis stood in front of Pete, Jackie and Taylor's extended family in Ashburn. Through more tears, he spoke about the greatest loss he has suffered. Then he went to work on a eulogy he would deliver the following week at Taylor's funeral.

In a span of 12 days, Portis would take six flights to and from Miami, play three games and take a genuine personal inventory.

"Of course something like that changes you, shows you got to be more appreciative of everything you have, be blessed and be thankful for it," Portis said. "It doesn't take the anniversary to do that."


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