Ten years after his murder, Sean Taylor still casts a long shadow on NFL players and fans. There had never been a safety quite like him. With the heft of a medium sized dump truck, Taylor was fluid and fast. Natural in every way. He could get sideline-to-sideline to hunt down indifferent passes. He could shoot the gap and erase ball carriers with a massive thud of pads, and a gasp from the fans. You don’t need me to tell you this. Go to YouTube.
Yet 10 years after his murder, the “teachable moment” involving Sean Taylor’s shocking death, is rarely spoken. Not by players, and not by most commenters in the media. It wasn’t Sean Taylor’s “fault” that a pair of soulless young punks broke into his house to steal some money and jewelry from what they thought was an empty house. It’s not his “fault” that Taylor only brought a machete to a gun fight. Nobody is blaming the dead.
But the Sean Taylor tragedy is deepened by the knowledge that so many simple little things could have prevented it. Sean Taylor wasn’t walking down the street when he got hit by a bus. Sean Taylor died because, sadly, his path to full NFL maturity had waited a little too long.
If you read the entire reporting on his death, you’ll see where Taylor would allow his half-sisters and her friends to sometimes use his house for gatherings and parties. Often, when he wasn’t even around. That was Sean Taylor. Generous and chill. No doubt his close friends and family were probably appreciative and respectful. Probably cleaned up on their way out. But all it took was bringing two bad actors through that door with them by accident one time. They ended up casing the joint from the inside. They knew that Taylor kept substantial cash and jewelry inside the house.
Then one night, when Taylor was supposedly gone – he should have been in Tampa with the team that night, despite being inactive with an injury – these punks made their move.
There was no gate to go through. No fence to jump over. No alarm to sound. No dog to bark.
The NFL had already established its “Rookie Symposium” to help young players deal with sudden fame and fortune by the time Taylor was drafted by the Redskins. The league does their best to prepare young men in how to say “no” to relatives, to be on guard for thirsty women, to be careful with their money. Sometimes the advice is… uh… well meant, but off-target. But for the most part, it’s stuff that young players should hear.
Sean Taylor skipped out on that symposium after one day.
Did you hear any of the current and former players talk about how important that rookie symposium is this past weekend, when it pertains to Sean Taylor? Probably not. Nobody wants to sound like they are blaming the dead.
In the immediate aftermath, several high profile media members called the murder “shocking” but not “surprising.” Taylor was known to have been involved in some degree of “trouble” both on and off the field in his young life. Still, he wasn’t out gangbanging when football season stopped. If Aaron Hernandez was an “8” on a scale of 1-10 as a wanna-be NFL gangsta, then Taylor was no more than a “3.”
Taylor was just young, headstrong, and a little bit careless. And obviously, too trusting.
I don’t want to see another Sean Taylor type murder again. I want both current and former NFL players to constantly reinforce the understanding for new NFL stars that you do not have time to “grow-up” at your own pace. When you are an NFL star and a millionaire, you cannot afford to be Mr. Netflix and Chill for the entire neighborhood.
Your home is your castle. Defend it as such.
Your money belongs in the bank. Keep it there.
Your friends can’t be dummies, deadbeats, or sycophants. Choose them carefully.
I don’t know if the story of how Sean Taylor was the victim of a cascading series of bad timing and bad outcomes that night gets told at the Rookie Symposium now. But it should. And doing so, isn’t pointing the finger of blame at anyone. It’s only about preventing the next one.