The National Football League is mourning the loss of one of its own – Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor, who died Tuesday morning after being shot in his Miami home by an intruder one day earlier.
Taylor, 24, is survived by his fiancé and one-year-old daughter. The investigation into who killed Taylor is ongoing.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden offered his condolences to Taylor's family and the Redskins organization after practice on Wednesday.
"I don't say I know him personally; I met and talked with him several times. It's a dark, sad day to me that anything like that happens in this country," Gruden said. "It's a sickening, horrible thing. I just wish the very best for his family, the Redskins and the people that knew him the best. The guys from the University of Miami, there are a lot of them out there speak highly of him and really are going to miss him. That's all I can say."
Although the crime, which has been deemed a homicide by Miami police, took place nearly 300 miles away from Tampa, Taylor's death hit close to home for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, particularly some of their players.
"That breaks my heart," Bucs wide receiver Ike Hilliard said of Taylor's death. "Sean lived down the street from me in Palmetto Bay. It hits close to home with me and actually the guys that played with him and knew him on a personal level. Security is what it is and you try to do the best to take care of yourself and your family. Sometimes you are just dealt a bad hand. We are all going to miss him and we send all our love and prayers to his family."
Bucs defensive tackle Jovan Haye didn't know Taylor personally, but he agreed that security is an ongoing issue for NFL players and people in general.
"I didn't know the guy, but it hit home," Haye said of Taylor. "We're all a fraternity in the NFL. If we lose one guy it's like losing a brother.
"They came to his house. Where can you feel safe? It's not like he was out and about at a club or something. He was at home, where you should feel safe."
Taylor played collegiately at the University of Miami. He was a standout safety for the Hurricanes and entered the NFL as the fifth overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft with the Redskins.
According to his former Hurricanes teammates, Bucs cornerback Phillip Buchanon, Taylor was one of the most talented players he ever played with.
"I'll always remember Sean as one of the most talented safeties that ever played at the University of Miami and probably would have been, hands down, one of the best safeties to ever play in the NFL," said Buchanon.
The 6-foot-2, 212-pound Taylor had some off-the-field issues earlier in his career, and he earned a reputation for being a headhunter and hard-hitting safety in the NFL.
Taylor, who notched two sacks and 12 career interceptions and made the Pro Bowl in 2006, was ejected from Tampa Bay's playoff game vs. Washington in Jan. of 2006 for spitting in the face of running back Michael Pittman.
However, several of the people close to Taylor suggested he became a changed man after the birth of his daughter and was beginning to settle down.
"I was just starting to get to know more on a personal level," Hilliard said of Taylor. "I had seen him every offseason. My wife and his fiancé went to school together at the University of Miami while my wife was in law school and she was playing soccer there. Our kids played together and we tried to go to each other's functions and so forth and so on. He was a great kid and obviously he gets a bad rap because he played in a position where you have to be a force and clean up some piles and make a statement in the secondary."
Buchanon experienced a similar home invasion incident about a year and a half ago, but he lived to tell about it.
According to the News-Press, Buchanon lived through a home invasion that took place at his Atlanta home at 3:00 a.m. on Mar. 13, 2006.
"Something like that happened to me," Buchanon told the News-Press on Monday after learning of Taylor's shooting. "At 3 o'clock in the morning, five guys in ski masks came into my house. It was a home invasion.
"It was similar, but at the same time, I didn't get shot. I got pistol-whipped. My head was bleeding. They put a gun in my mouth. I would never wish that on anybody else."
Buchanon told the News-Press that the invaders stole his car, his clothes and two flat-screen televisions. However, they did leave him alive, which left Buchanon reluctant to even compare his incident to that of Taylor's.
"It's just weird. One minute you're here and the next minute you're not," said Buchanon, who hopes to be able to attend Taylor's funeral next week. "I'm still trying to grasp it right now.
"This is not similar to my situation because it's different. Mine happened and I'm still here. Sean's happened and he's not here. It's tough. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family. I'm still in awe right now."
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