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Sean Taylor 1983-2007
 


Country : Miami, Florida
Profession : Football Player
Date of birth : 1983-04-01
Date of death : 2007-11-27
Cause of Death : Murder

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sean-taylor1

Sean Michael Maurice Taylor (April 1, 1983 – November 27, 2007) was an American football free safety who played for the Washington Redskins of the National Football League. Taylor was drafted in the first round (fifth overall) of the 2004 NFL Draft by the Redskins. He played college football at the University of Miami, where he helped lead the Hurricanes to a national championship in 2001. Due to his ferocious style of hitting, several of his pro teammates nicknamed him "Meast," a reference to "half man, half beast." Among his many football accomplishments, Taylor was widely considered one of the hardest-hitting defensive secondary players in the NFL.

Taylor was murdered on November 27, 2007, at the age of 24, dying from critical injuries from gunshots by intruders at his Miami area home on November 26, 2007. His death led to an outpouring of national support and sympathy, especially in the Washington D.C. area where Taylor was a fan favorite as a Redskin and the Miami area where Taylor had been a standout high school and college football player. In honor of Taylor, for the first play of the first game after he died, the Redskins defense came out with only ten players instead of the usual 11.

Early life

Taylor was born April 1, 1983 in Miami, Florida to Pedro Taylor, a policeman, and Donna Junor. He spent his early years growing up with his great-grandmother Aulga Clarke in Homestead, Fl and later moved to his fathers home at the age of 10. He grew up in a low income neighborhood in Miami, on a street filled with candy-colored houses. Taylor played high school football in Pinecrest, Florida, a suburb of Miami. He originally began his high school football career at 6A Miami Killian High School, but left to Gulliver Preparatory School 2A, where he could play both offense and defense. He helped Gulliver win the Florida Class 2A State Championship in 2000, with a 14–1 record (he did not play in the first game of the season, the team's only loss). At Gulliver, Taylor was a star on both sides of the ball, playing running back, defensive back and linebacker.

In 2000, Taylor rushed for 1,400 yards and a state-record 44 touchdowns. On two separate occasions, Taylor rushed for more than 200 yards during Gulliver’s state playoff run. He also racked up more than 100 tackles during the 2000 season and accounted for 3 touchdowns (two receiving, one rushing) in the state title game victory over Marianna.

Taylor was considered the Number 1 prospect in Miami-Dade County by the Miami Herald. He was also rated the nation’s number 1 skill athlete and an All-American by super prep. Furthermore, Taylor was an Orlando Sentinel Super Southern Team selection, the No. 1 athlete on the Florida Times-Union Super 75 list and rated the Number 1 player in Florida by the Gainesville Sun.

Taylor was honored at Gulliver by a plaque, which is located in the academy's cafeteria.

In 2007 he was named to the Florida High School Association All-Century Team which selected the Top 33 players in the 100 year history of high school football in the state of Florida.

College career

University of Miami

2001 season

Taylor was recruited by the University of Miami Hurricanes. Taylor enrolled there in 2001 and, that year, he was one of just four true freshmen to play for Miami in the 2001 national championship season. He carved a niche for himself in Miami's secondary in nickel and dime defensive schemes. In 2001, Taylor was named "Big East Special Teams Player" of the Week for his performance against the University of Pittsburgh. The 2001 season also proved a hugely successful one for the Hurricanes, with the team winning its fifth national championship since 1983, making them the most successful college football team of the past three decades with more national championships than any other Division I program during this period.

2002 season

In 2002, Taylor was a second-team All-Big East selection by the league's head coaches in his first season as a starter. He finished third on the team in tackles with 85 (53 solo), broke up 15 passes, intercepted 4 passes, forced 1 fumble, blocked 1 kick, and returned a punt for a touchdown. He led all defensive backs in tackles, interceptions, and passes broken up, and had a career-high 11 tackles (2 solo) and intercepted 2 passes in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State University. One interception occurred on an infamous play where he was stripped by Maurice Clarett on the return, allowing Ohio State to retain possession.

2003 season

During his final year at Miami, Taylor produced a historic season that culminated with a plethora of honors and awards. He was named a consensus first-team All-American, the "Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Year" and a finalist for the "Jim Thorpe Award" given to the nation's best defensive back. He led the Big East Conference and ranked first nationally in interceptions with 10, tying the record for interceptions in a season with former Hurricane standout Bennie Blades. He finished first in total tackles with 77 (57 solos). He intercepted two passes in Miami's impressive 28-14 win over the University of Pittsburgh, playing a key role as the Hurricanes limited All-American receiver Larry Fitzgerald to two receptions for 13 yards. He returned interceptions for an average of 18.4 yards, including a 67-yard touchdown return at Boston College, a 50-yard scoring runback at Florida State University, and a 44-yard scoring runback against Rutgers University. His three touchdown returns of interceptions is a Miami single-season record.

NFL career

2004 NFL draft

Following Taylor's 2003 season, in what was his junior year, Taylor announced that he was entering the NFL draft, held in April 2004. Taylor was a first-round draft selection, taken by the Washington Redskins with the fifth overall selection. He also was the first University of Miami player drafted in 2004, which was somewhat surprising since there was a broad perception that Hurricanes' tight end Kellen Winslow II would be the first selection. Winslow, however, was taken with the next selection, the sixth overall, by the Cleveland Browns.

The drafting of Taylor by the Redskins in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft began an NFL Draft record of six players from the University of Miami being drafted in the first round, which is the record for the most players from one school being drafted in the first round of an NFL Draft (the other five players were Kellen Winslow II, Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams, Vernon Carey, and Vince Wilfork).

Washington Redskins

Following his 2004 selection by the Redskins, Taylor signed a seven-year, $18 million contract with the team.

After Taylor was drafted, problems soon began. Taylor fired his agent, then skipped part of the NFL's mandatory rookie symposium, drawing a $25,000 fine. Driving home late from a party during the season, he was pulled over and charged with drunk driving. The case was dismissed in court, but had become a months-long distraction for the Redskins.

Taylor also was fined at least seven times for late hits, uniform violations and other infractions over his first three seasons, including a $17,000 penalty for spitting in the face of Buccaneers running back Michael Pittman during a 2006 playoff game.

Taylor endured a year-long legal battle after he was accused in 2005 of brandishing a gun at a man during a fight over allegedly stolen all-terrain vehicles near Taylor's home. He eventually pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors and was sentenced to 18 months' probation.

2004 rookie season

On the field during the 2004 season, Taylor was successful, emerging as the Redskins' starting free safety by the third game of his rookie season. For the season, he had the team's second most interceptions, with four. In addition to his four interceptions, Taylor had 89 tackles, two forced fumbles and one sack. He started for the Redskins in 13 of the season's 16 games. Taylor was nicknamed "Meast" by his fellow teammates, an abbrev for half man half beast because of his vicious hits on opposing players.

2005 season

Before the season started, Taylor switched his jersey number from 36 to 21 after the player who wore number 21 the year before, cornerback Fred Smoot (a close personal friend of Taylor), left the team to sign with the Minnesota Vikings. Taylor kept the number when Smoot rejoined the Redskins in 2007, opting to wear number 27 (his number from Minnesota) instead.

Taylor continued his effective play in the 2005 season, finishing with 70 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 fumble returned for a touchdown. In this year he became recognized as one of the hardest hitters in the NFL.

Taylor, along with fellow University of Miami and Redskins' teammate Clinton Portis, was fined $5,000 in the home game against the Philadelphia Eagles for violating the NFL dress code by wearing socks that did not match the Redskins' standard uniform. Portis was fined even more for additional infractions.

Taylor had ups and downs during a January 7, 2006 wild card game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although he scored a touchdown that proved to be the Redskins' game winning touchdown, he was ejected after spitting at Buccaneers' running back Michael Pittman. He was subsequently fined $17,000, the amount of his game check.

2006 season

The 2006 season was arguably the most inconsistent of Taylor's career. His play was often erratic. He finished the year leading the Redskins' defense with 129 tackles, 1 interception and 3 forced fumbles. However, Taylor missed numerous tackles in his attempts to tackle the ball carrier and was exposed in coverage on several occasions. This was largely due to his defensive assignment, being forced to cover slot receivers, aid in double coverage, and make tackles near the line of scrimmage to help support a struggling Redskins rush defense.

Washington Redskins assistant coach Gregg Williams frequently called Taylor the best athlete that he had ever coached, but nearly every big play was mitigated by a blown assignment. Taylor led the NFL in missed tackles in 2006 yet still made the Pro Bowl because of his reputation as one of the hardest hitters in the league.*

Taylor had his best game of the season in week 12 against the Carolina Panthers. Though he played well all game, his presence was felt most sharply in the final minutes, making a key 4th-down tackle and intercepting a Jake Delhomme pass to seal the victory. He earned NFL Defensive Player of the Week honors following the game.

On November 5, 2006 Sean returned a blocked Vanderjagt field goal into Dallas Cowboys' territory and was awarded a 15 yard penalty after Kyle Kosier grabbed Sean's facemask. This set up the winning field goal by Nick Novak.

Even while playing on a struggling Redskins defensive unit, Taylor's impact on the field was recognized when he was named a first alternate to the NFC's 2007 Pro Bowl team. When the NFC's first choice for safety, Brian Dawkins of the Philadelphia Eagles, chose not to play in the Pro Bowl due to an injury, Taylor was named to the vacated spot, marking his first and only Pro Bowl appearance.

2007 season

The 2007 season seemed to represent a personal turnaround for Taylor. Before the season in a rare interview he is often quoted as saying "...you play a kid's game for a king's ransom. And if you don't take it serious enough, eventually one day you're going to say, 'Oh, I could have done this, I could have done that.'" His teammates said that he had finally gotten his life straightened out because of his daughter. Prior to the start of the 2007 season, Sports Illustrated named Taylor the hardest hitting player in the entire NFL.

At the time of Taylor's death on November 27, 2007, he was tied for the most interceptions in the National Football Conference and second in the league with five despite having missed weeks 11 and 12 with a knee injury. Taylor also had 42 tackles and one forced fumble.

Prior to his murder, however, Taylor had been sidelined for two weeks and had returned to his Miami residence during his recuperation.

On December 18, 2007, Taylor was posthumously voted to his second Pro Bowl, becoming the first player in NFL history to be elected to the Pro Bowl after his death and the first player in any sport since Pelle Lindbergh of the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers in 1986. During the Pro Bowl every Redskin that made the Pro Bowl wore 21 to honor him.

Controversies

Following Taylor's early departure from the University of Miami and his drafting by the Redskins, a number of criminal troubles plagued Taylor's NFL career, including:

2004 DUI arrest in Virginia

On October 27, 2004, Taylor was arrested at 2:45am for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol following a Washington, D.C. birthday party for former Redskins' receiver Rod Gardner. Pulled over for driving 82mph on the Capital Beltway, whose speed limit is 55mph, Taylor failed a field sobriety test and then refused a blood alcohol (BAC) test, which resulted in his arrest. A Fairfax County, Virginia judge later acquitted Taylor of the charges in March 2005, after viewing a videotape of Taylor's roadside sobriety tests that, according to the judge, failed to demonstrate obvious intoxication. Taylor was, however, convicted for refusing to take a blood alcohol test requested of him by a Virginia state police officer. However, when this case was heard on appeal in March 2005, Taylor was acquitted of refusing to take the BAC test, with a judge ruling there was a lack of probable cause for the request.

2005 armed assault arrest in Miami

Events: On June 3, 2005, Taylor was named publicly as a "person of interest" by Miami-Dade County police in regard to a Miami assault case involving firearms, and was being sought for questioning. "We need to speak to him, we don't know if he's a victim, witness or suspect," Miami-Dade police spokesman Mary Walters said. Taylor allegedly was present at, and possibly involved in, an incident on June 1, 2005 in Miami, in which bullets allegedly were fired into a stolen vehicle.

On June 5, 2005, ESPN and The Miami Herald both reported that Taylor, accompanied by his lawyer, surrendered to Miami-Dade police at approximately 10pm ET on June 4 at Miami's Cutler Ridge district police station, where he was transported to Miami's Turner Guilford Knight correctional facility. He was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm, a felony, and misdemeanor battery. Miami-Dade police issued a statement the same day, confirming the earlier reports. Taylor had allegedly pointed a gun at a person over a dispute over two ATVs that he claimed were stolen.[citation needed] Taylor then allegedly left the scene, but returned shortly and punched one person.

The Associated Press reported that Taylor was held in detention at Miami's Turner Gilford Knight correctional facility and released the evening of June 4 after posting bond of $16,500. The Miami-Dade County Clerk's Office announced that he would soon be officially arraigned on the charges.

The Washington Post reported on March 3, 2006 that Taylor's trial has been postponed until April 10, 2006. Days before that date, the trial was moved back once more, this time by a week, because of conflicts with Passover and Easter celebrations.

Armed assault plea agreement and resolution

On January 28, 2006, the Miami-Dade County prosecutor announced that he was filing new charges against Taylor, which would have increased his potential maximum jail time from 16 years to 46 years. The new charges included increasing his felony assault charges from one to three, which reflected the allegation that, on June 1, 2005, he brandished a firearm at three individuals who Taylor believed stole two all-terrain vehicles from him.

The trial was again postponed on April 17, 2006 (to May 8, 2006), after the prosecutor in the case asked the presiding judge to be removed from the case. The County prosecutor's request for removal from the case came as Taylor's defense lawyers argued that the prosecutor was using the case to promote his side-work as a disc jockey in South Beach. Defense lawyers for Taylor entered a motion for the case's complete dismissal, due to prosecutorial misconduct.

On May 8, 2006, the prosecution requested and received another extension of the case, citing the new prosecutor assigned to the case and a need for additional preparation time. The trial was scheduled to begin July 10, 2006 in Miami but on June 2, 2006 the charges against Taylor were dropped as part of a negotiated plea bargain. Taylor donated his time to various charities and made $1,000 donations to 10 southern Florida schools in scholarships and, in exchange, would avoid jail time and a felony record.

Death

On November 26, 2007, at 1:45 am. EST, Taylor was shot in the upper leg by an armed intruder at his Palmetto Bay, Florida, home, where he had been recuperating from a football injury. He was mortally wounded in his femoral artery. His long-time girlfriend, Jackie Garcia (niece of actor Andy Garcia), hid under the bedding with their 18-month-old daughter, also named Jackie. Garcia then called 9-1-1 from her cell phone.

Taylor was airlifted to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he underwent surgery. He emerged from surgery about 12:30 p.m. He had lost a significant amount of blood and remained in a coma. His doctors speculated that he may have suffered brain damage due to the blood loss, and an unnamed Redskins source reported that Taylor's heart stopped twice during the emergency surgery.

On November 27 at 3:30 a.m., Taylor died at the hospital.The news was released to the media by Richard Sharpstein, a family friend who learned the news from Taylor's father around 5:30 a.m, and by Taylor's agent, Drew Rosenhaus.

Police investigation

Earlier burglary

Eight days earlier, on November 18, Taylor's house had been burglarized in his absence. Media reports vaguely described the police reports of the circumstances surrounding the first burglary. Among the details noted were that the intruders pried open a window to climb into the home, went through the desk and safe that were located in the football player's bedroom, and damaged an air conditioning unit.

The police report was made by Taylor's mother, who checked on the home during his absence and discovered the burglary. The police report did not specify if anything was stolen from the home, presumably because his mother would not know the contents of the desk or safe located in his bedroom. It is also reported that three of the five suspects in Taylor's murder were involved in the earlier burglary.

Arrests

On November 30, 2007, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Miami-Dade police detained four people in the Fort Myers area for questioning in connection with Taylor's death. The Miami Herald reported that investigators believe the four learned of Taylor's house through someone who unwittingly set up the burglary by bragging about his wealth. Later that night, Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Linda O'Brien announced that four men — Venjah K. Hunte, 20; Eric Rivera, Jr., 17; Jason Scott Mitchell, 19; and Charles Kendrick Lee Wardlow, 18 — were arrested and charged with Taylor's murder. Police director Robert Parker added that authorities had more than one confession but would not elaborate.

All four men were charged on December 1, 2007, with felony second-degree murder, armed burglary and home invasion with a firearm or another deadly weapon, charges that could result in life sentences for the perpetrators. On May 13, 2008, around 2:30 P.M. a fifth suspect, 16-year-old Timothy Brown, was arrested in connection with the murder. On May 14, 2008, Brown was charged with first-degree murder and armed burglary of an occupied dwelling.

Media reaction and controversy

There has been criticism by some of the way in which Taylor's death has been covered by the media. Among the criticisms are that unsubstantiated statements by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Antrel Rolle about individuals from Taylor's past who despised him for no longer associating with them garnered as much attention as did the observations of experienced police detectives.

There has also been a backlash against the pigeonholing of Taylor as a stereotypical victim of black-on-black gun violence and characterizing him as a troubled youth who was headed toward certain destruction because of his past transgressions, while ignoring the circumstances surrounding his death.

Additionally, many of Taylor's friends, teammates, coaches and old associates have expressed outrage at the way he was characterized by the media, including references to the University of Miami's image as "Thug U" (the institution's label due to a series of deaths, arrests and criminal misdeeds by the university's players dating back to the 1980s).

Memorial Service

On December 3, 2007, 4,000 people attended Taylor’s funeral service held at the Pharmed Arena at Florida International University. The entire Redskins organization attended the funeral and took up a section of the arena, traveling the day after a home game against the Buffalo Bills and two days before another home game against the Chicago Bears.

Speakers at the funeral, which was nationally televised, included NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, then-Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs, and current and former professional and collegiate teammates LaVar Arrington, Clinton Portis, and Buck Ortega. The Reverend Jesse Jackson and O. J. Simpson, whose children went to Gulliver Prep, Taylor’s high school, were in attendance. Also attending were numerous prominent University of Miami alumni, including former teammates.

Many of Taylor’s teammates were seen weeping throughout the emotional service. Taylor’s daughter sat in front with her mother and wore a pin with her father’s jersey number "21" on the sleeve of her dress. In one of the eulogies, Taylor’s uncle Michael Outar told the audience, "I wanted him to play running back or quarterback and score all the touchdowns. The coach gave Sean number 66 and put him on the line. Before the game he said, 'Uncle Michael, what do I do?' I said, 'Hit the guy with the ball.' And that's what he did, over and over."

Taylor was buried near his Palmetto Bay home.

National Football League

The NFL recognized the death of Taylor by placing a #21 decal on the back of all NFL players' helmets during all Week 13 games; additionally, a moment of silence was held before each game that week. Players on other teams were given the option to continue wearing the decals in subsequent weeks.

Taylor was posthumously voted starting free safety for the NFC team for the 2008 Pro Bowl as a second team All-Pro.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins had the number 21 painted on the field, a parking lot entrance and the Redskins Hall of Fame, all three of which became makeshift memorials. In addition to the black #21 sticker on the back of every NFL helmet, the Redskins wore it as a patch on player uniforms, warm-up shirts and coaching staff jackets, as well as unveiling a banner bearing his name and number. His locker at Redskin Park was encased in plexiglass and left as Taylor left it. The organization also established a trust fund for Taylor's daughter, Jackie.

The first Redskins game after Taylor's death, against the Buffalo Bills on December 2, was hosted at FedEx Field. The game began with the Redskins defense playing with 10 men on the field instead of the usual 11, and saw players signaling to the sky, holding up the numbers two and one on numerous occasions. The team requested everyone arrive 25 minutes before the start of the game at 12:40 p.m. and played a four-minute remembrance video, held a moment of silence, and gave attendees commemorative towels with Taylor's number on them in honor and memory of Taylor.

The Redskins were 5–7 at the time of Taylor's murder. Following his funeral, the team played and won a Thursday night game three days later. Washington went on a 4-game winning streak to close out the season, which included a 27–6 (a 21-point difference, Taylor's jersey number) home victory over division rival Dallas Cowboys in front of a record crowd, to finish 9–7 and secure the final spot in the playoffs. With this win, the team became only the fourth team during the Super Bowl era to qualify for the playoffs following a 5–7 start. The Redskins, however, lost to the Seattle Seahawks by 21 points during the first week of the playoffs.

Teammates Chris Cooley, Chris Samuels and Ethan Albright all wore jersey #21 during the 2008 Pro Bowl. The three jerseys were auctioned off and donated to the Sean Taylor Memorial Trust Fund.

Taylor's number 21 has not been reissued by the team. It is not known at this time if it has been removed from circulation as being "unofficially retired" as the Redskins do not retire jersey numbers.

On November 30, 2008, at the Redskins game against the New York Giants, Clinton Portis ran down the field with a flag in the team's colors with the number 21 on it to honor the anniversary of Sean Taylor's death. They also painted the middle of the field with a 21 instead of the Redskins symbol. Portis's website is entirely dedicated to Taylor.

University of Miami

At the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, a banner honoring Taylor and signed by students and alumni was displayed in the student union breezeway and a candlelight vigil was held on the campus in his honor the evening of December 2, 2007. Due to a previously scheduled event later that week, Sean Taylor's funeral was held at nearby Florida International University at the Pharmed Arena on December 3, 2007, instead of at the BankUnited Center on the University of Miami campus.

Trial

Although originally scheduled for April 7, 2008, the trial of the men charged with Sean Taylor's murder has been postponed to June 2009. The trial was postponed by petition of the defense saying that there were still hundreds of potential witnesses that needed to be interviewed before the trial could proceed. On May 12, 2008, it was announced the suspects, if convicted, would not face the death penalty, but may be subjected to life imprisonment, because the suspected gunman, Eric Rivera, was only 17 at the time of the shooting. On May 15, 2008, Venjah Hunte, one of the five suspects in Taylor's murder, accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to 29 years in prison. On April 1, 2009, Hunte petitioned the court to withdraw his guilty plea.

Memorial

Ring of Fame Induction

Sean Taylor was inducted into the Redskins' Ring of Fame on November 30, 2008. He joined 42 others and is the first player introduced to the ring since Gary Clark was inducted in late 2007.

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