During the 2007 NFL season, the Washington Redskins received some tragic news when they found that their Pro-Bowl safety Sean Taylor was murdered. Taylor was shot by intruders at his Miami home and died the following day. Washington head coach Joe Gibbs recalls Taylor as being a top-notch athlete and revealed how devastated he and the rest of the team was after hearing the news.
Who was Sean Taylor?
Sean Taylor was a 6-foot-2, 231-pound safety who was a freak of an athlete. He played his college football at Miami and was a first-round pick in the 2004 NFL draft. The Washington Redskins selected Taylor with the fifth overall pick.
Taylor played three full seasons in the NFL and was in his fourth when tragedy struck. Intruders invaded his home, thinking nobody was there and wound up shooting and killing Taylor, who woke up to confront the criminals. Taylor was shot in the upper leg and had extensive blood loss. He died the following day.
Taylor made the Pro Bowl twice, including the final season in 2007 when he played nine games. In those nine games, he collected a career-high five interceptions. In 2016, he had a career-high 114 combined tackles and added an interception, making the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career.
Taylor’s shocking murder
After several lengthy delays, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy sentenced Eric Rivera, who was 17 at the time of Sean Taylor’s death, to more than 57 years in prison. He was one of five men charged in Taylor’s death. According to a 2014 ESPN story, Rivera confessed that Taylor confronted the intruders with a machete after they broke in looking to steal cash.
Multiple witnesses at the trial testified that Taylor often kept large sums of cash in his house. Rivera testified that he didn’t think Taylor would be home with a knee injury instead of playing in a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Taylor was 24 when he died.
Rivera, in a short statement, told Taylor’s family he was sorry for the killing. “I live with his death every day. I’m going to have to deal with the consequences,” he said. Taylor’s girlfriend and 18-month-old daughter were in the room when Taylor confronted the killer.
Joe Gibbs was crushed when he got the news of Taylor’s death
Joe Gibbs, who had two stints as head coach of the Washington Redskins, was devastated when he heard the news of Sean Taylor’s murder. “When that happened, it devastated everybody,” Gibbs said in an interview with Graham Bensinger last year. “I don’t think you know how to handle that. You just do the best you can. Some of the guys who were close to him on the team got up and spoke.”
Gibbs clearly wasn’t the only one shaken up by the news. “We came back to play the very next weekend you could tell our guys, they weren’t into it,” Gibbs said. “It was hard. It affected everybody. We had to win four in a row to get into the playoffs. I said those were probably four of the best games I ever had a football team play.” They won all four games. “That team came together and wanted to do it for Sean.”
Gibbs said he considered Taylor one of the best athletes he’s ever coached. “He may have been the best athlete I’ve ever been around,” Gibbs said. “He was a running back in high school, scored all kinds of touchdowns, and he came with us and he played safety. A killer-instinct guy. Great tackler. He was the leader of the team.”