Redskins fans remember slain player, Sean Taylor
ASHBURN, Va. (WUSA) -- There are two photos of him in Steve Jackson's office at Redskins Park. Santana Moss has his daughter's picture in a frame on the kitchen counter at home. LaRon Landry and Reed Doughty see him in their minds every day, too.
And yet, Sean Taylor has been gone longer now than he was a Redskin. His lockers, which were enclosed behind plexiglas with their contents intact after his death, have been removed. Only seven players and two assistant coaches who were part of games with the Pro Bowl safety remain, but he's far from forgotten.
"It flies by," said Moss, whom Taylor followed to the University of Miami and then to the Redskins. "It's four years, but it just feels like yesterday."
Taylor was shot on Nov. 26, 2007 when he surprised four teenagers and a 20-year-old who had broken into his South Florida mansion in hopes of burglarizing the millionaire. He was only there with his fiancée, Jackie Garcia, and their young daughter, Jackie, because he had injured a knee two weeks earlier and thus was allowed to go home for Thanksgiving rather than accompany the Redskins to Tampa Bay for that weekend's game.
Just 24 when he died, Taylor was having an All-Pro season, leading the NFC in interceptions and causing havoc for opposing offenses.
Jackson, Taylor's position coach, believes that he could have become one of the all-time greats, considering that "he was just scratching the surface" of his talents when he was slain.
Landry, who was drafted sixth overall in 2007 to team with Taylor, thinks every day about how terrific they could have been as a tandem for more than nine games.
Moss wonders how good the Redskins might have been if Taylor had lived. While Washington was just 28-29 in games that Taylor played during his four seasons, his 51-yard fumble return for a touchdown against the Buccaneers in January 2006 was the difference in its only playoff victory of the past 11 seasons.
The Redskins are just 26-41 since Taylor's final game on Nov. 11, 2007. Doughty, who stepped in for him that season, 2008 draft choices Kareem Moore and Chris Horton (both since waived) and 2011 free agent signee Oshiomogho Atgowe have all come up short in trying to replace the incredibly gifted athlete and intimidator.
"(Sean) was really coming into his own," Doughty said. "We were talking in the (defensive back meeting) room the other day about how young and good he was. Anybody who plays free safety for the Redskins is always going to be compared to him and I'm not sure many can compare."
Taylor was also coming into his own as a person. Very shy and soft-spoken off the field except with those close to him, Taylor's football behavior had been worthy of his "The Beast" nickname during his first two Redskins seasons. He was disciplined for a series of late hits, spitting in an opponent's face, walking out of the NFL's mandatory rookie symposium, driving under the influence and numerous uniform violations.
But Jackie's birth in the spring of 2006 began to mellow and mature Taylor, making his death that much more tragic and helping prompt the outpouring of grief among Redskins fans, many of whom still wear his No. 21 jersey.
Amazingly, Taylor's alleged assailants have yet to stand trial. Venjah Hunte plea-bargained to second-degree murder and burglary charges in 2008 and is expected to testify against Timmy Lee Brown, Jason Mitchell, Eric Rivera and Charles Wardlow if they finally go to trial on Jan. 30 as planned.
Hunte will likely serve 29 years in prison while the rest could face life sentences if convicted on first-degree murder charges for which they can be tried in Florida even if they didn't personally pull the trigger.
"They in prison so they ain't going nowhere," Moss said when asked if he's angry that justice has yet to be served. "They gonna be dealt with. You just gotta let the system do its course."
Sadly, Taylor's course ended way too early.
WUSA-9's Redskins Insider, David Elfin, has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of five books on the Redskins including the new "Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History."