Birth of daughter gave new meaning to Taylor's life
Sean Taylor's life had been changing for the better before he was shot and killed, writes Jeffri Chadiha.
That's the only thought that kept going through my mind after hearing Taylor had died early Tuesday morning, a day after being shot by an intruder in his South Florida home. This wasn't the same immature kid who spent his first two seasons baffling Redskins management with poor decision making. This was a young father, a hard-hitting defender fresh off a Pro Bowl season, a maturing 24-year-old who finally understood what it took to be a professional.
Now there certainly are plenty of people who will say that Taylor's death is about more than just football, and there is no question about that. But what can't be dismissed is that most of what we know about Sean Taylor relates to football. Taylor rarely talked to reporters and most of our insight into his life came from his on-field performance and off-field issues. It's apparent that the playing part was never much of a problem for him. The off-field stuff was another issue, especially during Taylor's first two seasons.
But the feeling from the Redskins was that Taylor had put the problems that plagued him early in his career behind him -- including the seven fines he'd received for late hits and other infractions, and the $25,000 fine he incurred for skipping a mandatory rookie symposium after the Redskins selected him fifth overall in the 2004 draft. He was no longer the same man who had been accused of brandishing a gun during a fight in 2005. In that case, Taylor accepted a plea agreement of two misdemeanors and received 18 months' probation.
Yet somehow, through all those issues, he had started the valuable process of growing up. The most obvious sign was the relationship he had with his 1-year-old daughter, Jackie.
"It's hard to expect a man to grow up overnight, but ever since he had his child, it was like a new Sean, and everybody around here knew it," Redskins running back Clinton Portis told reporters. "He was always smiling, always happy, always talking about his child."
Teammates always claimed that Taylor had more common sense than he displayed early in his career. It's much easier to believe that when observing his behavior since Jackie was born in May 2006.
Not only had Taylor avoided trouble, but he had become even better on the field. A few weeks ago, Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams gushed about how Taylor had become the best safety in the league, a defender whose intimidating combination of size (6-foot-2, 212 pounds) and speed allowed him to excel in coverage and against the run. The more you listened to people talk about Taylor, the more you sensed he had turned an important corner in his life and his career.
But now we must reflect.
Taylor apparently had lost so much blood from an arterial wound in his leg that he wound up in a coma shortly after reaching Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. There had been some signs of hope -- Redskins vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato told the media Monday that doctors were encouraged by Taylor's ability to squeeze a physician's hand on request and show facial expressions. But Taylor's injuries were too severe. Now his family and friends and the Redskins are left wondering how to make sense of this tragedy.
Taylor's teammates clearly struggled to find the words to convey those feelings. On Monday, Portis talked about how it was impossible for a teammate and friend to turn back time and step in front of the bullet that pierced Taylor's leg. Safety Pierson Prioleau said Taylor was more than just a member of the Redskins; he was a father, a brother and a dear friend to many in that locker room. Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said there's no easy way to deal with a tragedy like this. It's just too far outside the scope of what most people face.
In may take some time to sort out exactly what happened the day Taylor was shot. Even when we do find out, it may not make much sense. After all, Taylor had seen the value in growing up long before somebody broke into his home and shot him. He saw it in his daughter, in his growth as a player.
Hopefully, people will remember that about his character as they mourn him today.
Jeffri Chadiha is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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Sean Taylor: 1983-2007
Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor died Nov. 27, a day after the Pro Bowl player was shot at home by what police say was an intruder. Four suspects are in custody and have been charged with first-degree felony murder and armed burglary.
• Autopsy shows bullet left through Taylor's left leg
• Three suspects in Taylor shooting denied bail
• Taylor's life celebrated at Florida funeral
• Skins honor Taylor with 10-man defense vs. Bills
• Bail denied for fourth suspect in Taylor shooting
• Four charged with murder in Taylor shooting
• Hurricanes grieve together again Nov. 30
• Four arrests made in connection to Taylor's killing
• Memories and mystery frame Taylor's life
• Portis, Moss discuss Taylor
• Police still have no suspect
• Childhood friend Rolle doubts burglary
• Gore deals with death of friend
• Taylor's death stirs memories of slain Bronco
• Caps pay tribute to Taylor
• Taylor dies after being shot at home
• Coaches, teammates remember Taylor
• Artery injury suffered by Taylor difficult to treat
• Taylor shot, in critical condition
Reaction• Sando from Redskins' first game after tragedy
• Merrill: Unanswered questions frame Taylor's life
• Granderson: Pursuit of street cred a dangerous choice
• Drehs: Pro athletes feeling targeted
• Chadiha: Taylor's life was turning around
• Pasquarelli: Taylor will be difficult to replace
• Pasquarelli: NFL examining salary-cap impact
• Hill: The grim statistic
• Feldman: Taylor was a special talent
Video• Complete Taylor coverage
Audio• Taylor's ex-attorney's account of tragic night
• Former coach Larry Coker remembers Taylor