Sean Michael Maurice Taylor (April 1, 1983 – November 27, 2007) was an American football player who played free safety for the Washington Redskins of the NFL. Due to his ferocious style of hitting, his teammates had nicknamed him "Meast", a combination of "half-man, half-beast".
Taylor died during his playing career at the age of 24 after being shot in his Miami area home by an apparent intruder.
Taylor was born in Miami, Florida. He was the son of Pedro Taylor, the police chief of the Florida City Police Department, and Donna Junor. At the age of three, his parents divorced, and he was raised predominantly by his father and stepmother, Josephine Taylor, in the Richmond Heights area in southern Miami-Dade County.
High school football
Taylor played high school football at Gulliver Preparatory School in Pinecrest, Florida, a suburb of Miami, where he helped Gulliver win the Florida Class 2A State Championship in 2000. At Gulliver, he was a star on both sides of the ball, playing running back (on offense) and defensive back and linebacker (on defense).
In 2000, Taylor rushed for 1,300 yards and a state-record 44 touchdowns. On two separate occasions, Taylor rushed for more than 400 yards during Gulliver’s state playoff run. He also racked up more than 200 tackles during the 2000 season and accounted for four touchdowns (two receiving, one rushing) in the state title game victory over Marianna.
Taylor was considered the No. 1 prospect in Miami-Dade County by the Miami Herald and rated the nation’s No. 1 skill athlete and an All-American by SuperPrep. He was also an Orlando Sentinel Super Southern Team selection, the No. 1 athlete on the Florida Times-Union Super 75 list, and rated the No. 1 player in Florida by the Gainesville Sun.
Taylor began his high school football career at 6A Miami Killian Senior HS, but left to Gulliver 2A where he could play both offense and defense. He is honored at Gulliver by a plaque which is located in the academy's cafeteria.
University of Miami
Taylor was recruited by the University of Miami, then one of the premiere college football programs in the nation. Taylor enrolled there in 2001 and, that year, he was one of just four true freshmen to play for Miami in the 2001 national championship season. He carved a niche for himself in Miami's secondary in nickel and dime defensive schemes. In 2001, Taylor was named "Big East Special Teams Player" of the Week for his performance against the University of Pittsburgh.
In 2002, Taylor was a second-team All-Big East selection by the league's head coaches in his first season as a starter. He finished third on the team in tackles with 85 (53 solos), broke up 15 passes, intercepted 4 passes, forced one fumbles, blocked one kick and returned a punt for a touchdown. He led all defensive backs in tackles, interceptions and passes broken up and had a career-high 11 tackles (2 solo) and intercepted 2 passes in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State University.
During his final year at Miami, Taylor produced a historic season that culminated with a plethora of honors and awards. He was a named a consensus first-team All-American, the "Big East Conference Defensive Player of the Year" and a finalist for the "Jim Thorpe Award" given to the nation's best defensive back. He led the Big East Conference and ranked first nationally in interceptions per game (0.98) with 10, tying the record for interceptions in a season with former Hurricane standout Bennie Blades. He finished first in total tackles with 77 (57 solos). He intercepted two passes in Miami's impressive 28-14 win over the University of Pittsburgh, playing a key role as the Hurricanes limited All-American receiver Larry Fitzgerald to two receptions for 13 yards. He returned interceptions for an average of 18.4 yards, including a 67-yard touchdown return at Boston College, a 50-yard scoring runback at Florida State University, and a 44-yard scoring runback against Rutgers University. His three TD returns of interceptions is a Miami single-season record.
2004 NFL draft
Following Taylor's 2003 season, in what was his junior year, Taylor announced that he was entering the NFL draft, held in April 2004. Taylor was a first-round draft selection, taken by the Washington Redskins with the fifth overall selection. He also was the first University of Miami player drafted in 2004, which was somewhat surprising since there was a broad perception that Hurricanes' tight end Kellen Winslow II would be the first selection. Winslow, however, was taken was the next selection, the sixth overall, by the Cleveland Browns. The drafting of Taylor by the Redskins in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft began a NFL Draft record of 6 players from the University of Miami being drafted in the first round, which is the record for the most players from one school being drafted in the first round of a NFL Draft (The other 5 players from the University of Miami that were drafted in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft were Kellen Winslow II, Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams, Vernon Carey, and Vince Wilfork).
Following his 2004 selection by the Redskins, Taylor signed a seven-year, $18 million contract with the team.
2004 rookie season
On the field during the 2004 season, Taylor was successful, emerging as the Redskins' starting free safety by the third game of his rookie season. For the season, he had the team's second most interceptions, with four. In addition to his four interceptions, Taylor had 89 tackles, two forced fumbles and one sack. He started for the Redskins in 13 of the season's 16 games.
Taylor's short NFL career, however, was overshadowed somewhat by controversy. He fired two of his agents, walked out of a mandatory NFL rookie symposium for which he was fined, and was accused of spitting on Cincinnati Bengals player, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who later called Taylor "a punk", during a 2004 game at FedEx Field. However, after an investigation, the NFL found nothing to substantiate the spitting allegation.
Taylor continued his effective play in the 2005 season, finishing with 70 tackles, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles, and 1 fumble returned for a touchdown. In this year he became recognized as one of the hardest hitters in the NFL.
Taylor, along with fellow University of Miami and Redskins' teammate Clinton Portis, was fined $5,000 in the home game against the Philadelphia Eagles for violating the NFL dress code by wearing socks that did not match the Redskins' standard uniform. Portis was fined even more for additional infractions.
Taylor had ups and downs during a January 7, 2006 wild card game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although he scored a touchdown that proved to be the Redskins' margin of victory, he was ejected after spitting at running back Michael Pittman. He was subsequently fined $17,000, the amount of his game check.
The 2006 season was arguably the most inconsistent of Taylor's career. He finished the year leading the Redskins' defense with 129 tackles, 1 interception and 3 forced fumbles. However, Taylor missed numerous tackles in his attempts to tackle the ball carrier and was exposed in coverage on several occasions. This was largely due to his defensive assignment, being forced to cover slot recievers, aid in double coverage, and make tackles near the line of scrimmage to help a struggling Redskins rush defense.
Taylor had his best game of the season in week 12 against the Carolina Panthers. Though he played well all game, his presence was felt most sharply in the final minutes, making a key 4th-down tackle and intercepting a Jake Delhomme pass to seal the victory. He earned NFL Defensive Player of the Week honors following the game.
Even while playing on a struggling Redskins defensive unit, Taylor's impact on the field was recognized when he was named a first alternate to the NFC's 2007 Pro Bowl team. When the first choice for safety, Brian Dawkins of the Philadelphia Eagles, chose not to play in the Pro Bowl due to an injury, Taylor was named to the vacated spot, marking his first and only Pro Bowl appearance.
At the time of Taylor's death on November 27, 2007, he was tied for the most interceptions in the National Football Conference with 5. Taylor also had 42 tackles and 1 forced fumble. Taylor was sidelined due to injury for the last two weeks of his playing career (Weeks 11 and 12 of the season).
On October 27, 2004, Taylor was arrested at 2:45am for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol following a birthday party for former Redskins' receiver Rod Gardner. A Fairfax County, Virginia judge later acquitted Taylor of the charges in March 2005, after viewing a videotape of Taylor's roadside sobriety tests that, according to the judge, failed to demonstrate obvious intoxication. Taylor was, however, convicted for refusing to take a blood alcohol test requested of him by a Virginia state police officer. However, when this case was heard on appeal in March 2005, Taylor was acquitted of refusing to take a BAC test, due to lack of probable cause for the request.
Missing 2005 Redskins mini-camp
In May, 2005, Taylor, seeking a new contract with the Redskins, was the only Redskin who refused to appear for a Redskins' training mini-camp. Redskins coach Joe Gibbs acknowledged that the Redskins had had no contact with Taylor since he returned to Miami in January, 2005, and that he had failed to return repeated phone calls to him by Gibbs and other Redskins' coaching staff. Despite his legal and other difficulties, though, Gibbs has defended the drafting of Taylor, calling the preparation that went into his selection one of the "most researched things in the history of sports".
Taylor's agent was fellow University of Miami alumnus Drew Rosenhaus, widely considered one of the most aggressive agents then representing NFL players. Rosenhaus represented Taylor in his efforts to renegotiate his Redskins' contract up until his death.
Arrested for armed assault
* On June 3, 2005, Taylor was named publicly as a "person of interest" by Miami-Dade County police in regard to a Miami assault case involving firearms, and was being sought for questioning. "We need to speak to him, we don't know if he's a victim, witness or suspect," Miami-Dade police spokesman Mary Walters said. Taylor allegedly was present at, and possibly involved in, an incident on June 1, 2005 in Miami, in which bullets allegedly were fired into a stolen vehicle.
* On June 5, 2005, ESPN and The Miami Herald both reported that Taylor, accompanied by his lawyer, surrendered to Miami-Dade police at approximately 10pm ET on June 4 at Miami's Cutler Ridge district police station, where he was transported to Miami's Turner Guilford Knight correctional facility. He was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm, a felony, and misdemeanor battery.
* On June 5, Miami-Dade police issued a statement indicating that Taylor had been arrested for aggravated assault with a firearm (a felony) and battery (a misdemeanor), for allegedly pointing a gun at a person over a dispute over two ATVs that Taylor claimed were stolen. Taylor then allegedly left the scene, but returned shortly and punched one person.
* The Associated Press reported on June 5 that Taylor was held in detention at Miami's Turner Gilford Knight correctional facility and released the evening of June 4 after posting bond of $16,500. The Miami-Dade County Clerk's Office announced that Taylor would soon be officially arraigned on the charges.
* The Washington Post reported on March 3, 2006 that Taylor's trial has been postponed until April 10, 2006. Days before that date, the trial was moved back once more, this time by a week, because of conflicts with Passover and Easter celebrations.
Plea agreement and resolution
On January 28, 2006, the Miami-Dade County prosecutor announced that he was filing new charges against Taylor, which would have increased his potential maximum jail time from 16 years to 46 years.
The new charges included increasing his felony assault charges from one to three, which reflected the allegation that, on June 1, 2005, he brandished a firearm at three individuals who Taylor believed stole two all-terrain vehicles from him.
The trial was again postponed on April 17, 2006 (to May 8, 2006), after the prosecutor in the case asked the presiding judge to be removed from the case. The County prosecutor's request for removal from the case came as Taylor's defense lawyers argued that the prosecutor was using the case to promote his side-work as a disc jockey in South Beach. Defense lawyers for Taylor entered a motion for the case's complete dismissal, due to prosecutorial misconduct.
On May 8, 2006, the prosecution requested and received another extension of the case, citing the new prosecutor assigned to the case and a need for additional preparation time. The trial was scheduled to begin July 10, 2006 in Miami but on June 2, 2006 the charges against Taylor were dropped as part of a negotiated plea bargain. Taylor donated his time to various charities and made $1,000 donations to 10 southern Florida schools in scholarships and, in exchange, would avoid jail time and a felony record.
Shooting and death
On November 26, 2007, at 1:45 a.m. EST, Taylor was shot in the upper leg by an armed intruder at his Palmetto Bay, Florida home, critically wounding him by severing his femoral artery. His long-term girlfriend Jackie Garcia, niece of actor Andy Garcia, hid under the bedsheets while their 18-month-old daughter, Jackie, laid in her crib. Garcia then tried to call police from the house phone line, but could not get through, possibly because that line had been cut. She proceeded to call 911 from her cell phone, which delayed response time.
Taylor was airlifted to the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he underwent surgery. He emerged from surgery about 12:30 p.m. He had lost a significant amount of blood and remained unconscious and in a coma. His doctors speculated that he may have suffered brain damage due to the blood loss, and an unnamed Redskins source reported that Taylor's heart stopped twice during the emergency surgery.
On November 27 at 3:30 a.m., Taylor died at the hospital. The news was released to the media by Richard Sharpstein, a family friend, who learned the news from Taylor's father around 5:30 a.m.
No immediate motive or suspects in the killing have yet been released, and no arrests have been made. Following Taylor's murder, it was revealed that the November 27 intrusion was actually the second break-in at Taylor's Palmetto Bay home. Two weeks earlier, on November 18, the house had been burgularized in Taylor's absence. The burglar from the November 18 incident did not take anything of great value, but did ransack the house and leave a knife on Taylor's bed.