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Past, present Hurricanes grieve for slain Taylor

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Dozens of former and current
University of Miami players will sit together at Sean Taylor 's
funeral Monday, only a few feet from the family section.


A few will be Taylor's closest friends and confidants. Others
barely knew him. Yet each shares a palpable closeness to Taylor, a
bond forged from being part of Miami's tradition-rich and proud
football program.


For decades, the Miami Hurricanes have lived the same mantra:
Once a 'Cane, always a 'Cane. It's a close-knit family that grows
together and celebrates together and -- too often -- grieves
together.


"We're like brothers," said Frank Gore, a former Miami
teammate of Taylor's and now a running back for the NFL's San
Francisco 49ers. "It's tough, you know. It's like losing my
brother."


Taylor, the 24-year-old Washington Redskins' safety died
Tuesday, one day after being shot in what police believe was a
botched burglary at his South Florida home. Four people have been
arrested and charged in connection with the killing, which sent
shock waves through the football core of 'The U.'


"Everybody knows it's a family-type situation at the University
of Miami," Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon said. "Once you're a
'Cane, you're always going to be a 'Cane. It's been that way since
I was a player. It's always going to be that way. Guys who played
with Sean, guys who didn't play with Sean, they'll be here to
support the family."


When news broke that Taylor was shot, that football family
reacted quickly.


Santana Moss, Taylor's teammate with the Hurricanes and
Redskins, furiously began text-messaging every Miami player whose
number he had. He wasn't alone. Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman
Bryant McKinnie got 26 texts from former Hurricane teammates.
Current 'Canes quickly began calling one another, some juggling two
phones.


"We're all so close, from the University of Miami to here,"
Moss said. "Sean had a lot of friends who have been devastated by
his leaving us."


Many Hurricanes currently in the NFL will play Sunday with
Taylor's No. 21 on their helmets, then fly south to say goodbye.
Indianapolis wide receiver Reggie Wayne never played with Taylor at
Miami, but he commandeered Colts' owner Jim Irsay's private jet to
make the trip.


To Wayne, it's absolutely that important to get home.


"It's still kind of hard for me to actually grasp onto this,
that this is actually happening," said Seattle Seahawks defensive
back Kelly Jennings, who graduated from Miami two years ago. "But
it's just something ... in daily life, things happen you have to
deal with."


At Miami, the 'Canes family has to deal with it more often than
any family should.


Last year, defensive lineman Bryan Pata was killed outside his
off-campus apartment with only a few games left in his senior
season. A year earlier, former wide receiver Stanley Shakespeare --
a member of the 1983 national championship team -- drowned in a
boating mishap.


Al Blades, Chris Campbell and Jerome Brown all were notable
former players who died in car crashes in recent years. Marlin
Barnes was murdered in 1996. Robert Woodus died in a plane crash a
few years before that.


Nonetheless, it's never easy to deal with.


"When something like this happens, it kind of hits you," said
an emotional Roscoe Parrish, the Buffalo Bills' wide receiver who
was in Taylor's class at Miami. "You don't really know what to do
because it's unexpected. There's shock and sadness."


Every time something like this happens, segments of the Miami
family pull together because that's what families do.


And that's what they'll do this time, too.


"I think it's part of the culture at the University of Miami,
the one players grow into and grow up in, that bond," former Miami
coach Larry Coker said. "It's been that way for a number of years.
Why it's that way, why it's different here, I don't know -- but it
is."


The bond is a real one, not just spoken.


Many Miami players have grown up in South Florida and still call
it home. The Hurricanes' weight room during the offseason can look
like a Pro Bowl locker room, with some of football's elite working
out together and getting ready for another year.


"When you're a 'Cane, you're a 'Cane forever," said former
Miami quarterback Kyle Wright, whose senior season ended last
month. "That means something. That means a lot."


It's not just an offseason thing, either.


On the sideline at any Miami game, home or away, it's not
uncommon to see at least a dozen alumni players standing a few feet
from the bench. After one game this year at the Orange Bowl, former
Miami defensive tackle Russell Maryland -- a No. 1 overall pick in
1991 -- was serving as the team's de facto water boy.


That simply doesn't happen everywhere.


Because the Hurricanes' on-campus arena is unavailable, Taylor's
funeral will be at Florida International University, about 8 miles
from Miami's campus.


The family ties reach there, too.


FIU athletic director Pete Garcia was Miami's football
recruiting coordinator when Taylor was a sophomore at Miami's
Gulliver Prep. He's known Taylor and his family ever since and
still acknowledges "there's something special" about Miami.


"We're all family. We're all hurt by this," said Derrick
Morse, whose career as a Miami offensive lineman ended last month.
"It's good knowing other guys feel the same way. We're all real
close, we all build relationships while we're here. And whether you
played with Sean or not, somehow, everyone who's ever played at
Miami is linked to him."