Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor died Nov. 27 after he was shot in his home by an apparent intruder, leaving the Washington Redskins in mourning for a teammate who seemed to have reordered his life since becoming a father.
The 24-year-old player died at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he had been airlifted after the shooting on the morning of Nov. 26.
Redskins teammate Clinton Portis played with Taylor at the University of Miami. He had sensed a new maturity in his close friend.
“It’s hard to expect a man to grow up overnight,” Portis said. “But ever since he had his child, it was like a new Sean and everybody around here knew it. He was always smiling, always happy, always talking about his child.”
Doctors had been encouraged late Monday when Taylor squeezed a nurse’s hand, according to Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins’ vice president of football operations. But family friend Richard Sharpstein said he was told Taylor never regained consciousness after being taken to the hospital.
“Maybe he was trying to say goodbye or something,” Sharpstein said.
Taylor, the fifth overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft following an All-American season at Miami, was shot in the upper leg, damaging the key femoral artery and causing significant blood loss.
The attack came eight days after an intruder was reported at Taylor’s home. Officers were sent to the home about 1:45 a.m. after Taylor’s girlfriend called 911.
Sharpstein said Taylor’s girlfriend told him the couple was awakened by loud noises and Taylor grabbed a machete he keeps in the bedroom for protection. Someone then broke through the bedroom door and fired two shots, one missing and one hitting Taylor, Sharpstein said. Taylor’s 1-year-old daughter, Jackie, was also in the house, but neither she nor Taylor’s girlfriend was injured.
The shooting happened in the pale yellow house Taylor bought two years ago. In last week’s break-in, police said someone pried open a front window, rifled through drawers and left a kitchen knife on a bed.
A private man with a small inner circle, Taylor rarely granted interviews. But, behind the scenes, Taylor was described as personable and smart.
After Taylor was drafted, problems soon began. Taylor fired his agent, then skipped part of the NFL’s mandatory rookie symposium, drawing a $25,000 fine. Driving home late from a party during the season, he was pulled over and charged with drunken driving. The case was dismissed in court, but by then it had become a months-long distraction for the Redskins.
Taylor was also fined at least seven times for late hits, uniform violations and other infractions over his first three seasons, including a $17,000 penalty for spitting in the face of an opponent during a 2006 playoff game.
Taylor endured a yearlong legal battle after he was accused in 2005 of brandishing a gun at a man during a fight over allegedly stolen all-terrain vehicles near Taylor’s home. He eventually pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors and was sentenced to 18 months’ probation.
Taylor said the end of the assault case was like “a gray cloud” being lifted. It was also around the time that his daughter was born, and teammates noticed a change.
“I just take this job very seriously,” Taylor said in a rare group interview during training camp. “It’s almost like, you play a kid’s game for a king’s ransom. And if you don’t take it serious enough, eventually one day you’re going to say, ‘Oh, I could have done this, I could have done that.’
“So I just say, ‘I’m healthy right now, I’m going into my fourth year, and why not do the best that I can”