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Earlier this morning, a young, widely-misunderstood African-American man died from a bullet wound in a Miami, Florida hospital.  Outside of the Washington, DC area and the close fraternity that is the National Football League and the city of Miami -- where he was a star football player for the University of Miami Hurricanes -- few people, outside of his family and close circle of friends, knew him well.  Certainly not many in the media.  But his coaches and teammates loved him.  

His name was Sean Taylor and for the past 3 1/2 years, he played safety for my team, the Washington Redskins.

He was only twenty four years old.

Taylor was a high first round draft pick of the Redskins in 2004.  At the time, many football analysts around the league compared him to Hall of Fame player Ronnie Lott of the San Francisco 49ers, one of the best safeties ever to play the brutal sport we call professional football.  

For those of us who saw him play, Taylor was one of the very best players ever to suit up in a football uniform for the Redskins -- this for a team that for over 75 years has produced legendary players like Sammy Baugh, Bobby Mitchell, Charlie Taylor, Sonny Jurgensen, Larry Brown, John Riggins, Joe Theismann, Art Monk, and Darrell Green.  He had unlimited potential and was simply brilliant at what he did.  In 2004, many saw in him a future star who would dominate opposing teams like few did before him.

Early this morning, I read a moving column (written while Taylor was still clinging precariously to life) by sports columnist Mike Wise in the Washington Post in which he summed up the feelings of Redskins Assistant Head Coach-Defense, Gregg Williams

Maybe an hour before the news of his progress arrived, assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams tried to talk about the player in the present tense.  He spoke of how the mercurial kid, whom the tough-love defensive taskmaster grew close with, had grown, matured, become a doting father in May 2006.  But the words stopped coming and Williams had to leave the podium before he broke down.

"Whether he plays again, I don't know," Williams said.  "If he does, great, if he doesn't, great. I just want him to recover, I just want him to be... I just want him to be all right."

It was not to be.  Death is never timely.  And for teammates who feared the worst, such was the case

The morning had been so surreal, the moments immediately after his teammates and coaches heard Taylor had been shot.

A shaken Fred Smoot trudged through the parking lot, fighting back tears, and was determined not to cry for everyone to see.  Rock Cartwright wept openly, the tears coming hard.

Big, strong men cried and prayed and cried and prayed.  And prayed some more.

NFL players are often freakish, and not just in physical stature.  If they are among the largest and strongest men in the world, they also pride themselves on their ability to manage pain, especially emotional pain.  Acknowledging that kind of hurt is still, sadly, considered a weakness.

In some ways they are more unprepared to deal with Taylor's experience than most people.  When elite athletes gear the mind to be impervious toward shortcomings -- when they begin to believe the myth of their own invincibility -- it is that much more difficult to get in touch with their own mortality.

 

Today, Sean Taylor is tragically gone.  A young life snuffed out, gone in the short period of a few hours after being shot in the middle of the night at his Miami home by an intruder.  A father to an eighteen month-old girl, a son lost to his parents, and someone described by his Miami neighbors as a quiet, polite young man.  A whole lot of promise unfulfilled. And for that and what could have been much, much more, we mourn his passing.    

In our society, we love the underdog and cheer for him or her to succeed even as the odds are stacked against them.  But we marvel at the abilities of those who stand head and shoulders above the rest of us.  We want nothing more than to see them excel at what they do for, above all, we value achievement and excellence.  We want them to soar high above us mere mortals for only they can go places the rest of us can simply dream of.  

In a brief, yet brilliant, football career, Taylor did just that.  Even as many are in a state of utter shock upon hearing the news today, we cherish the memories he left behind.  

That is what we celebrate today.  

RIP, Sean Taylor.

(crossposted at Truth & Progress and Docudharma)

Originally posted to JekyllnHyde on Tue Nov 27, 2007 at 12:33 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You Can Read More (16+ / 0-)

    ... about Sean Taylor here in today's Washington Post.

    "He did not make it through the night," said Taylor's attorney, Richard Sharpstein, who called the incident "a ridiculous, unnecessary tragedy."

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
    Sean Taylor -- 1983-2007

    As of now, plans for Taylor's funeral or a memorial fund have not been announced.  Read the Post for further details as they become available.  Thanks.

    A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. America for Gore

    by JekyllnHyde on Tue Nov 27, 2007 at 12:33:51 PM PST

  •  Iam Both A Redskins Fan (5+ / 0-)

    and a fan of humans. This just sucks!

    Let us not forget New Orleans. Visit Project Katrina.

    by webranding on Tue Nov 27, 2007 at 12:37:59 PM PST

  •  RIP Sean (9+ / 0-)

    For reasons I won't go into now, I haven't posted here in months, and I don't plan to hang around.  But I will say that I had the pleasure of meeting Sean Taylor, and he was one of the nicest, funniest, most down-to-earth people you will ever come across.  He was NOTHING like you sometimes saw him portrayed in the papers - he was a humble, generous man, and his death is nothing short of a tragedy.

    Sean had so much in front of him.  He was settling down to a life of success and fun with his loving family.  Now, his 18-month old daughter has lost her daddy. I don't even know what to say.

    I saw at least 4 people in their red "21" jerseys on the way to work today.  I expect it to continue all week.

    Look, Lois - the two symbols of the Republican party: an elephant, and a fat white man who's afraid of change. -- Peter Griffin

    by Bayern Munich on Tue Nov 27, 2007 at 12:41:33 PM PST

  •  I Just Need To Say This (0+ / 0-)

    he had many issues. Weapons charges. A lot of brushes with the law. He was a joy to watch play and I don't know the man, but that needs to be said.

    Let us not forget New Orleans. Visit Project Katrina.

    by webranding on Tue Nov 27, 2007 at 12:42:46 PM PST

    •  All True (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      murrayewv, dansk47, dennisl

      ... but if you followed his career, you also know that Sean had overcome his troubled past. And both coaches and teammates attested to that very fact.

      The police investigation is ongoing and hopefully we'll find out if his murder was connected to his past or whether it was a random act of violence.

      Such a tragedy.

      A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. America for Gore

      by JekyllnHyde on Tue Nov 27, 2007 at 12:47:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  WTF? (5+ / 0-)

      First of all, I don't know why any of that "needs to be said."

      Secondly, he had 2 brushes with the law; is that "a lot" ?!?!  A DUI charge that was dropped for lack of evidence, and an allegation that he pulled a gun on a guy who stole his ATV.  That charged was pled down to probation.  He was 22.

      His daughter was born last year, and he had truly grown up since then.  He was a good, kind man and he deserves to rest in peace.

      Look, Lois - the two symbols of the Republican party: an elephant, and a fat white man who's afraid of change. -- Peter Griffin

      by Bayern Munich on Tue Nov 27, 2007 at 12:49:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You Know Why (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JekyllnHyde, Bayern Munich

        I wonder if the life he lived came back to bite him.

        Daily Kos is supposed to be a place where debate can happen. I was a seasoned ticket holder for the Skins. I love Taylor. But I ought to be able to ask hard questions.

        Let us not forget New Orleans. Visit Project Katrina.

        by webranding on Tue Nov 27, 2007 at 12:54:27 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  ask away (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JekyllnHyde, murrayewv

          But as far as I know, he was arrested twice and never convicted of a felony.

          Look, Lois - the two symbols of the Republican party: an elephant, and a fat white man who's afraid of change. -- Peter Griffin

          by Bayern Munich on Tue Nov 27, 2007 at 12:56:49 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Arrested Twice (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JekyllnHyde, Bayern Munich

            I can only speak for myself but but at 38 never arrested. This thing sucks! My comment might seem to thank otherwise. But .....

            Let us not forget New Orleans. Visit Project Katrina.

            by webranding on Tue Nov 27, 2007 at 01:02:25 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  fair enough n/t (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JekyllnHyde

              Look, Lois - the two symbols of the Republican party: an elephant, and a fat white man who's afraid of change. -- Peter Griffin

              by Bayern Munich on Tue Nov 27, 2007 at 01:07:35 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Well .... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JekyllnHyde

              are you perchance a large young black man?  They may have differnet profiling from the cops than you did as a youth.  

              You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

              by murrayewv on Tue Nov 27, 2007 at 02:39:45 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  From Eugene Robinson.... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                JekyllnHyde

                A 24-year-old man, a professional athlete in his prime, is gunned down as his fiance cowers in fear and their young daughter sleeps -- it's hard to imagine a more tragic story. Period. I hope you agree that all who mourn Redskins safety Sean Taylor's passing should resist the temptation to fit what little we really know about his life and death into some kind of familiar narrative about race and pathology.

                Asked about Taylor's sudden and awful death, Coach Joe Gibbs said simply that life is fragile. Others have not been so modest, or so wise. They recount Taylor's past "troubles" and try to make him emblematic of Young Black Men in general -- the mean streets, the parasitic friends, the casual violence, the weapons, the beefs, etc., etc. This is argument, not explanation. It's lazy and wrong, and it drives me up the wall.

                link

                You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

                by murrayewv on Tue Nov 27, 2007 at 11:26:58 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  I still don't get your point. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JekyllnHyde

              Unless your point is that when your right to own a firearm is taken away due to the terms of your probation and you're a millionaire high profile football player it's essentially a huge target on your back saying "Please Rob My House."

              Then you might be on to something.

  •  Candle from a Patriots fan (7+ / 0-)

    RIP, Sean Taylor.  Peace and blessings to the family.

    "People should not be afraid of their government; governments should be afraid of their people." --V

    by MikeTheLiberal on Tue Nov 27, 2007 at 12:44:05 PM PST

  •  Taylor was a diamond in the rough ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JekyllnHyde, MA Liberal

    ... but it sounds like the sharp edges were being cut to perfection by the birth of his baby daughter last year. What a terribly sad piece of news to start the day. The last I heard during the Monday Night Football game, they said he had responded to a doctor's question and squeezed his hand, so I was hopeful that he would make it.

    And even though I am more of a Cleveland Browns fan, Washington is my hometown team, and today I think we all support the Redskins community in our shared grief. I hope the cops catch the intruder who did this awful thing. And may grace touch his surviving girlfriend, small child, and the rest of his family and friends. I cannot imagine what their pain must be like right now.

    One last thing I remember about Taylor was that he rarely gave interviews to the media because he did not trust the press. Smart man.

    Thanks for writing this diary, JekylInHyde. I was hoping someone would address this today.

  •  BTW: Joe Gibbs Is "The Man" n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JekyllnHyde

    Let us not forget New Orleans. Visit Project Katrina.

    by webranding on Tue Nov 27, 2007 at 01:05:27 PM PST

  •  Freepers making this into (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JekyllnHyde

    a gun control/felon voting debate...LOL.

    http://www.freerepublic.com/...

    I remember seeing Maurice Clarett run him down in the OSU-Miami national championship game...tragic to see both of their lives go the way they had.

    Ann Coulter and Steve LaTourette are Michigan alums! Go Buckeyes!!

    by BlueEngineerInOhio on Tue Nov 27, 2007 at 02:13:15 PM PST

    •  I Read (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlueEngineerInOhio, murrayewv

      ... the freepers' comments and not only are they tacky but most of them lack compassion as well as basic decency.

      Their obsession with gun control, cellphones, and security systems simply confirms what they are: woefully ignorant!

      A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. America for Gore

      by JekyllnHyde on Tue Nov 27, 2007 at 02:21:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  There is a point there. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JekyllnHyde

      I'm sure it's not the one they intend though.

      But when every potential burglar on the street has easy access to firearms, the fact that it's well known a famous individual isn't allowed to have a gun due to a criminal conviction it increases the chances of something like this happening.

      In no way is much of the debate there any more offensive or ridiculous than the moron in this thread coyly suggesting he deserved it.

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