The Redskins acquired another safety on Monday who idolized Sean Taylor growing up, and they’re hopeful this one is productive enough during his time in Washington to create his own legacy at the position. Three-time Pro Bowl selection Landon Collins agreed to a six-year, $84 million deal with the Redskins on Monday after spending the first four years of his NFL career with the New York Giants.
Like Washington’s 2017 free agent safety signee D.J. Swearinger and the team’s 2018 trade deadline acquisition Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Collins has patterned his game after Taylor and chosen jersey numbers in tribute to the late Redskins star, who was murdered during a home invasion in 2007.
“I feel like he’s always watching,” Collins said in a feature on ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” to mark the 10-year anniversary of Taylor’s death in 2017. “When it’s my time to pass away, to go up to the Lord and I get to speak to him, and finally meet him, man-to-man, he can put his arm around me and be like, ‘You did it.’”
Before the 2015 NFL draft, Collins, who grew up in Louisiana and starred at the University of Alabama, was asked which team he would like to select him.
“I grew up a Redskins fan,” Collins said on NFL Network. “I was a big Sean Taylor and Clinton Portis fan. Those were my two favorite players, so I grew up watching them play for the Redskins, so that would be my dream, to play there.”
In a 2016 interview with The Post Game’s Jeff Eisenband, Collins explained that his admiration for Taylor dated from his high school days in Geismar, La., when his coach told him he would play defensive back.
“I looked up the best safeties in the game,” said Collins, who was only 13 when Taylor died. “First name that popped up: Sean Taylor. I was like damn, let me look up him. I started watching his film and I was like, wow. From that point on, I’ve always been a Sean Taylor fan . . . When I got to college I got to pick the minds of some of the players that played with him, like LaVar Arrington, Ryan Clark, and I even got to meet Clinton Portis. I admired him so much, I wanted to know what he did, his eating habits and how he controlled himself. You see a great athlete on the field, but you never know the off-field things.”
The Redskins drafted Iowa guard Brandon Scherff with the fifth overall pick in 2015. The Giants would select Collins with the second pick of the second round, five picks before Washington drafted Mississippi State defensive lineman Preston Smith. Collins wore No. 26 at Alabama, the same number Taylor wore during his college career at Miami. As a rookie, Collins was assigned No. 27, but fellow defensive back Dominique Rogers-Cromartie agreed to switch to No. 41 and give Collins his old No. 21, the digits Taylor wore for the final three years of his NFL career after wearing No. 36 as a rookie.
“I feel like that’s the armor,” Collins told Eisenband. “I’m wearing his armor. When I put that number on, I’m always representing him in any form or fashion. I try to do my best by it.”
It’s unclear which number Collins will wear in Washington, as no Redskins player has worn Taylor’s No. 21 since his death, except in practice.
Collins and Clinton-Dix, who wore No. 21 with the Packers before switching to No. 20 when he was traded to Washington last October, formed one of the best starting safety tandems in the country at Alabama in 2013. Clinton-Dix struggled with the Redskins last year and is a free agent, so his reunion with Collins in Washington might not last long, but the duo will always share a deep respect for Taylor.
“I looked up to him,” Clinton-Dix told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel as a rookie in 2014. “I idolized him. He’s a heck of a player. Man, he was a beast. I liked him a lot. To see him pass at such a young age, it was sad to me, like he was my brother or something. And I didn’t even know him.”
Swearinger, who was released in December after making critical remarks to the media about Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, occasionally sported a Taylor No. 21 jersey in the locker room and watched a blurry montage of Taylor highlights before every game.
“I’m going to pick up where Sean Taylor left off,” Swearinger said in an Instagram video after he signed a three-year deal with the Redskins in March 2017. “That’s a lot of shoes, that’s a lot of weight, but I’m putting that on my shoulders.”
With Swearinger now in Arizona, it’s Collins’s turn to honor Taylor’s memory in the burgundy and gold uniform he once dreamed of wearing.
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