There have been numerous tributes, memorials, stories, tales and documentaries as it relates to the late great safety, Sean Taylor. Today marks 11 years to the day that one of the more beloved figures in the history of UM’s program passed away. Even with so much time having passed, it doesn’t get any easier reflecting on the tragic passing of a star who was taken much too soon.
The legacy of number 26 is still revered to this day. From his high school days at Gulliver Prep to exploding onto the collegiate stage with the Canes, Taylor was an alpha among alphas throughout his youth. Taylor’s resume reads like a South Florida footballer’s dream. He won the 2000 Florida State 2A Championship with Gulliver Prep. He was an integral member of the best collegiate team ever assembled, Miami’s 2001 National Championship team. As a Cane, Taylor would go on to win the 2003 Big East Player of the Year. There are no guarantees in this life we live, yet everyone thought it was a given that Taylor would make an easy transition to the NFL.
After being selected by the Washington Redskins fifth overall in the 2004 NFL Draft, Taylor was one of a then-record six Hurricanes selected in the first round. With uncanny instincts to track the ball mid flight, over great lengths of the field, Taylor was a versatile enigma as a 6’3”, 212 pound safety who could run for days, hit harder than an 18-wheeler and had playmaking instincts that rivaled predecessor Ed Reed.
That transition into the pros wasn’t as seamless as you’d hoped, but after spending time acclimating to the NFL, it was hard to keep Taylor off the field. The 2005 season was the breakout year for Taylor as a pro. Washington made the playoffs in his second season as a safety, with Taylor having grown much more comfortable on the field. That growth in his first two seasons led to him being a dominant force in 2006 and 2007, where he would go on to be named to the Pro Bowl. Taylor would not live to see that second Pro Bowl, after he was gunned down in his home on November 27th, 2007. Sean Taylor was just 24 years old when he was taken from this world.
The passing of the prodigy sent a ripple throughout the football world. The Redskins paid tribute to Taylor’s legacy by donning No. 21 patches on their jersey as well as on their home field for the remainder of the season. In the first game following his death, Washington trotted 10 men on defense, leaving one less man on the first play against the Buffalo Bills in honor of the safety.
Many players at all levels of the sport made the switch from 21 to to 26 to honor the memory of one of the game’s most promising stars. These homages to the legacy of Sean Taylor continue to this very day. Former Hurricanes’ WR D’Mauri Jones captured the image and likeness of Taylor in a couple of brilliant paintings. Former Canes’ linebacker and entrepreneur DJ Williams has issued a clothing line through his DYME Lyfe clothing brand that embroidered No. 26 — a number that Taylor made famous at the U — on most of their items.
The legend of Sean Taylor will never die, indeed. Although comparisons have been made numerous times, there is, and will only ever be, one Sean Taylor. No player was as beloved and revered as ST26. More than just through his play, Taylor was a man who walked it like he talked it long before Migos was even a notion. Emblematic of what it meant to be a Miami Hurricane through and through, if you had a team full of Sean Taylors you’d be confident against any opponent imaginable.
Since his passing, the legacy of Sean Taylor has only grown. The legend of a man who erased receptions. A titan whose hits could be heard aloud from outside of stadiums. Interception returns that sent a pulse throughout the stadium, jumpstarting a defense stocked with NFL-calibre talent. Yet, these are no works of fiction. Sean Taylor accomplished all those feats. His magnificent highlight reel still evokes a yell, a fist pump and, of course, a tear of joy and sadness. The measure of an individual can be contextualized while a player walks among us, but sadly it only comes into focus when they’re no longer with us.
Sean Taylor was more than just a football player. He was a father, teammate, husband, friend and brother. A star of the game the likes that few have ever witnessed. Today, we take our time to remember a man taken much too soon from the world.
Legends Never Die
Long Live 26