It’s been rare when the Washington Redskins draft a player of supreme talent with the opportunity to obtain greatness as a Redskin. In recent years, Washington has traded some of its draft picks to obtain that year’s free agent bust. It’s a formula that has kept the Redskins in the NFL doldrums for quite some time.
However, they hit the jackpot with the fifth overall pick of the 2004 NFL draft. Washington used that pick to select University of Miami strong safety Sean Taylor, who initially wore #36 for Washington before switching to #21. At six foot two and 231 pounds, Taylor had the size to deliver punishing hits to opposing receivers crossing over the middle. He also had the speed to chase down opposing ball carriers, as well as good hands to snare interceptions. It looked like Washington finally drafted a franchise player to build a defense around.
Taylor validated his franchise player status by being selected to two Pro Bowls. He had the opportunity to patrol Washington’s secondary for many years to come. Unfortunately, that opportunity would never come to fruition. Taylor passed away on November 27, 2007 after being shot in a home invasion while trying to protect his girlfriend and their infant daughter. He was only 24 years old. This tragedy took away a son, father, friend, and teammate in Sean Taylor.
Shaken, the Redskins continued the 2007 season. They dedicated their remaining games that year to the fallen Taylor. Washington converted that wave of emotion into a four game winning streak that catapulted them into the 2007 NFC playoffs. It was a testament to how much Taylor meant to the Redskins.
As this article is being written, it’s been five years to the day of Taylor’s passing. Wide receiver Santana Moss, tight end Chris Cooley, free safety Reed Doughty, defensive lineman Kedric Golston, and linebackers London Fletcher and Lorenzo Alexander are the only current Redskins that were members of the 2007 Washington Redskins. Considering that Moss is a University of Miami alum like Taylor was, this has to be an especially emotional time for him.
The 2012 Washington Redskins are facing a similar professional fate as their 2007 predecessors. They are looking at a tough road into the playoffs. At 5-6, Washington will need to win their remaining games, and get a little help from other teams, to reach the playoffs. The Redskins’ next game is a Monday night prime time affair with the New York Giants on Washington’s home field December 3rd. Redskins’ fans know that night will be brimming with emotion in commemoration of Taylor, who was a rising star at the time of his death.
If Taylor were still alive, he probably would still be a devastating force in Washington’s secondary. However, while he cannot physically be present at Fed Ex Field for the Giants game, Redskins’ fans know that his spirit will be present. The current Redskins’ incarnation hope they can channel the emotion of Taylor’s death into another victory that would keep their playoff hopes alive. It’s a result that would have made Taylor proud.