Words By Malik V.
I don’t remember much about November 27th, 2007, but I do remember the weather though.
I know my mind was as hazy and foggy as the skies outside that day. I remember waking up for my class at eight in the morning. I remember checking ESPN for updates and highlights like I always do, and I remember the main headline: “Redskins’ Taylor Dies”.
The only other thing I remember is getting text messages and Facebook messages from friends who had just heard the news.
I was never really sure why Sean Taylor’s death hit me so hard. Maybe it was because I followed his career from his days as a Miami Hurricane to the time when he made the NFC East and the NFL collectively wet their pants when they saw him barreling down the field. Maybe it was because I was captivated by his swagger and bruising style of play. Or maybe it was because of the way he was turning his life around. He was thrown out of a playoff game his rookie year for spitting on a player, and he faced his share of off the field issues. I remember hearing interviews with his teammates after he died. They all spoke of how he was in the process of changing his life and becoming a more mature and responsible human being.
And then, four guys broke into his house, shot him in the leg and he died.
As a fan, Sean Taylor was right up there in the list of my favorite players in the NFL. Me and my little brother would always fight over who got to be the Redskins when we played Madden, because we knew that Sean would always give us a couple picks and a whole lot of hit sticks every time. I saw the way he laid out the AFC punter in the Pro Bowl in 2007 and I wished I could have hit someone like that back when I played in high school.
I realize now that in a lot of ways, Sean Taylor was like the player I wanted to be if I was in the NFL. I’ve always wanted to play safety and I never had anyone to want to be like until he came around. He embodied everything I would have wanted. He was tall, built, and fast. They used to call him “Meast”, for half-man, half-beast. He didn’t talk much trash. What he did was separate ball carriers from the ball, and probably separated shoulders and other joints too.
It’s almost embarrassing to speak about how childish I was, looking up to a player like I did. The circumstances of his death really brought me back down to earth. As fierce and feared as he was, a shot in the leg took his life. I now know that a major artery runs through the leg, and he died from blood loss after getting that artery pierced, but before, I would’ve thought Sean Taylor could have just walked off a shot to the leg.
His death also woke me up to the realities of stardom, which apply for athletes and musicians alike. I think a lot of famous ball players and rappers got the same message last November: no matter how much money you carelessly shower over strippers, or how much dope you pushed back in the day, how much you can bench, how many tattoo tears you have, or how many bouncers and Kimbo Slice’s you have in your posse, you are just as fragile as an everyday joe taking the bus to his minimum wage job. Sean wasn’t even being flashy when he died. He was sleeping at his house.
I’m not really sure what kind of impact Sean Taylor’s death has had on me. I still can’t be the Redskins when I play Madden, out of fear that I’ll freak out when a see a number other than 21 at the safety spot. When the ‘Skins are on TV and I look at guys like Clinton Portis and Santana Moss, I always wonder where they were when they found out, and how much they think about it today. You may chalk it up as me being a naïve fan. But for whatever reason, Sean’s death got to me more than everyone else around me. When I do pop in Madden on my PS3 and choose the Redskins, I’ll let ya’ll know.
Till then, I still point to the sky whenever I see #21.
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