Five years ago today, the Washington Redskins suffered a tragic loss when Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor died of a gunshot wound at the age of 24.
The news came as a shock and took a lot of time to accept for many people in the D.C. and Miami areas.
For Sean’s father, Pete Taylor, faith helped guide him through the acceptance process.
“As a father,” Taylor says, “you still deal with it in a private setting and you respect and honor what God has done and know he makes no mistakes.”
Taylor will honor his son today in Miami: “One of the things I’ll do is I’ll go out and revisit his grave site and be there for a little bit,” he said. “[I will] clean it up and make sure everything looks good and tight-knit.”
Sean’s tombstone aptly features artwork of the 2004 first-round draft pick breaking up a pass and flipping a Dallas Cowboy player in midair. The design is indicative of how Sean played: fearless and unrelenting. One of the most feared players during his three and a half years in the National Football League, Taylor was known for delivering bone-crushing hits and highlight reel turnovers.
In the five years since his death, the NFL has changed drastically. The level of data and knowledge about concussions and potential brain damage caused from playing football have dramatically altered how the game is now played.
Helmet-to-helmet hits are being penalized at a more frequent rate. Players are now fined and suspended for plays that would have never been deemed “illegal” decades ago.
Looking back on Sean’s hard-hitting style of play and the rate of concussions accrued during an NFL season, it begs the question: would he have been allowed to play youth football with the wide breadth of knowledge provided to the public now?
“Yes,” Pete Taylor said. “I would have kept him playing football. I think it’s a great sport. It’s a great outlet for kids to have fun.”
The reason, Taylor says, is because, along with the advancement of concussion data, there has also been an improvement in football equipment over the years.
“I think the most important thing is they’re starting to change the game as far as the helmets are concerned and making sure you don’t lead with the helmet.”
Initially known for his reckless style on the field, Taylor had evolved into a more polished player with well-timed hits and a better eye for the ball at the end of his career. As he matured on the field, teammates and coaches noticed a maturation process off the field as well.
Having faced trouble early on, Taylor turned his attention to his family as his career progressed.
When his daughter Jackie was born, it marked a turning point in Sean’s life.
Now six years old, Pete says Jackie is playing soccer and just simply enjoys being a kid. Whether it’s her smile, long legs, or never-ending desire to be on the move and run, Jackie’s traits stand out to her grandfather because they resemble Sean so much.
“She’s just funny,” Taylor said. “Jackie’s a sweet kid. We have great times together.”
When Sean was Jackie’s age, Pete had hoped the advice he taught him would sink in and be carried on as he grew up. He learned after his son’s death, just how much Sean did, in fact, listen.
“Growing up,” Taylor said, “sometimes you think that you impart wisdom to kids and tell them things such as ‘Never forget young kids’ dreams’ [and] ‘Always respect your elders.’ Those kinds of things you think that they forget but they don’t.”
Taylor enjoyed people “telling a testimony of how Sean took off a jersey and threw it to [them]… or when [their] kid was standing in line for autographs, how Sean waited to make sure all those kids had an autograph.”
Knowing that Sean never forgot where he came from provides a very rewarding feeling, Pete said.
Sean’s roots as an athlete trace back to his time as a star football player in his local Pop Warner league. In his native Dade County, Sean’s legacy lives on through the Sean Taylor Football Classic, which pits the top local Pop Warner teams, which range from 90 pounds to 160 pounds, against each other. The winners are awarded a Sean Taylor trophy and the event helps keep his memory alive.
Another honor bestowed upon Taylor was his induction as a member of the 80 Greatest Redskins earlier this year.
Accepting the award on Sean’s behalf was Pete, who took in a whole weekend of festivities featuring an alumni gala and a ceremony during halftime of the Panthers game on Nov 4.
“I had a great time,” Taylor said. “It was a great honor. Larry (Michael) did a good job in bringing out Sean on that last video. That really touched me.”
Even though Sean is no longer playing for the Redskins, Pete says he continues to keep track of the team.
“I always told Mr. Snyder I want to be a part of the organization,” he said. “I continue to watch what they’re doing. I’m very interested in that team because my son played there. It’s his first NFL team and will always be dear to me.”
“I really love the Redskins,” he said. “I really love what’s happening with them. I’m just a Washington Redskins fanatic right now.”
Pete enjoyed watching all of the Thanksgiving game against the Cowboys. He doesn’t have a favorite player but did mention that he likes what their prized free agent wide receiver has brought to the team when healthy.
“I think [Pierre] Garcon coming back was great,” he said. “It was a spark they maybe needed to open up the offense.”
He tries to attend one or two games a year at FedEx Field. Having already attended the Panthers game, he hopes to make it to one more game this year, possibly the season finale against the Cowboys.
Pete Taylor obviously has not forgotten the Washington Redskins.
It’s only fitting considering that his son will always be remembered in the annals of Washington Redskins lore.
Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Jake Russell