The reported murder of Washington Redskins Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor shocked the sports world last Monday. Taylor was the dirtiest of the dirty when it came to hits, and was known for his prolific highlight reel. One of my favorite Taylor moments was when he leveled Bills Punter Brian Moorman in last year’s Pro Bowl game. It was only appropriate that he was given the nickname ‘The Meast’: half man, half beast.
Unlike what many of you may have expected, Taylor was a respected individual who inspired many children to pursue an education. He even came from a suburban background.
‘He didn’t grow up in some neighborhood where there were drugs being sold on the streets,’ said Ralph Ortega, who coached Taylor in high school. ‘Sean didn’t grow up stealing bicycles or running around with some gang. He was an extremely clean-cut, well-mannered kid. And that’s what I remember. If there’s another truth, fine. But I’d like to hear it from somebody who was really there.’
Taylor would go to schools around Miami, Fla., and give lectures on why education was important and donate money to these struggling schools.
The people who knew Taylor best are left scratching their heads as to how he died in such a violent way.
Police reports suggest that early Monday morning, four men broke into Taylor’s house for a burglary, surprising Taylor in his bedroom. He grabbed the machete that he keeps under his bed for protection, but he was too late. Shots were fired, and one landed in Taylor’s femoral artery. Fortunately, his girlfriend and 18-month-old daughter were not injured. Taylor suffered copious amounts of blood loss and never regained consciousness. He died early Tuesday.
The police suggest that the four suspects were in Taylor’s house for a burglary. However, the evidence shows daunting connections between the suspects and Taylor. The Miami Herald reports that one of the suspects cut Taylor’s lawn and another suspect’s cousin dated Taylor’s sister, Sasha. Another source said that one of the suspects was at Taylor’s house a couple of months ago for a party.
The authorities have not confirmed any such connections, nor have they linked the incident to the break-in at Taylor’s house that took place eight days before the shooting.
Taylor was known for some unsportsmanlike conduct on the field at the University of Miami. However, many attributed his actions on the field to his intimidating nature. Taylor was never really receptive toward the media, but there are a plethora of athletes, good and bad, who aren’t either.
Taylor was also accused of assault when he first joined the NFL. Taylor was a first-round pick, making big money. He parked his SUV in front of his friend’s house in the notoriously dangerous West Perrine neighborhood in Washington, where it was stolen. This infuriated Taylor, and when he confronted those who committed the crime, bullets sprayed his car. Taylor reacted and was charged with assault.
His youth would never suggest that he would take part in such actions. Taylor attended Gulliver Preparatory, a private school with tuition ranging from $7,000 to $24,000. It was a school where kids wore uniforms and drove expensive cars.
It was here where Taylor used his big, six foot three inch frame to torch the football field with his playmaking ability. Teammates raved about how he might be on the NCAA and Madden games that they would play. He would tell them to ‘shut up’ out of embarrassment and modesty.
‘He wasn’t cocky, you know, that wasn’t him. You were drawn to a good vibe,’ former Gulliver teammate Greg Bellamy told ESPN.com.
He laughed and joked with friends about girls and woke up with them at five a.m. to condition and train.
It is a huge contradiction that his life turned out this way. Usually, one expects this type of death from a person who has had a troubled past in a dangerous community. Taylor is living proof that a past can neither guarantee nor predict the future.
This story should teach us to watch what we say, where we go, what we do and whom we associate with. Even if it is confirmed that the murder was an unintentional result of a burglary, the lesson of the story does not change. The mystery of Taylor reminds us that anything can happen to anyone.