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Redskins Pay Final Respects to Sean Taylor

Posted Dec 3, 2007

The Redskins honored the memory of their fallen friend on Monday. The team traveled to Miami for Sean Taylor's funeral. Full Story

The Redskins bid a final farewell to Sean Taylor on Monday.

The entire Redskins organization, including players, coaches and team officials, traveled to Miami and back to honor the memory of their fallen friend.

The service was held at Pharmed Arena at Florida International University. Nearly 4,000 people were in attendance.

Upon arrival, the Redskins were brought to a reserved section on the floor of the arena.

At the front, Taylor’s coffin stood in front of a wall of multi-colored flowers. Above, two screens played highlights of Taylor’s football career, from high school to the NFL.

Taylor passed away on Nov. 27 after he was shot by an intruder at his home in Miami. He was 24 years old. He leaves behind his father Pedro Taylor and mother Donna Junor, fianc� Jackie Garcia and a 18-month-old daughter also named Jackie.

Along with the Redskins organization, many of Taylor’s former teammates from the Redskins and the University of Miami attended the funeral.

Former Redskins Derrick Dockery, Cory Raymer and John Hall traveled with the team to Miami. Dockery, now with Buffalo, stayed in the Washington, D.C., area after the Redskins-Bills game on Sunday.

LaVar Arrington, Antonio Pierce, Lemar Marshall, Jeremy Shockey, Andre Johnson, Chad Johnson, Antrel Rolle, Devin Hester, Ryan Clark, Julius Peppers and Robert Royal were in attendance.

Redskins greats Darrell Green, John Riggins, Charles Mann, Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff were also in attendance, lending a link from the past to the present.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was among the first speakers at the funeral. He lamented that the league has mourned the passing of Taylor, Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams and running back Damien Nash and New England Patriots defensive end Marquise Hill in the past year.

All four players were age 24 at the time of their deaths.

"It’s times like this that all of us struggle to find meaning in life," Goodell said. "The NFL was proud of Sean Taylor. He loved football and football loved him back. But more importantly, it was what he was as a man and what he was becoming as a man.

"He made an impact on all of us. Honor him in the way we carry ourselves forward from this day on. Make sure we make a positive influence in our life, as he did in ours."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson was also invited to address the mourners. He sat next to Taylor’s father Pedro.

Jackson lamented the continuing presence of gun violence in the African American community.

Taylor was protecting his fianc� and daughter at the time he was shot.

"Sean was a safety, a tackle of last resort," Jackson said. "If we learn from his death, then we score many a touchdown."

Joe Gibbs walked to the podium next and discussed Taylor’s maturing process in the last few years. Since the birth of his daughter Jackie 18 months ago, Taylor had become a devoted father and was more open about his faith.

"That change in his life was not brought from human efforts," Gibbs said. "God was working in his life."

Gibbs closed with this message: "God, take care of Sean until we get there."

Clinton Portis, one of Taylor’s closest friends, addressed the audience next. He has been in a somber state since the passing of Taylor, but he seemed more upbeat on Monday.

Portis said he always marveled at Taylor’s athleticism and penchant for hard hits.

"On the field, nothing excited you more than watching Sean hit," Portis said. "I don’t fear much, but if I was on an opposing offense across from Sean Taylor, I might have fear."

Portis and Taylor played together at the University of Miami. In 2004, Portis helped convinced Gibbs and the Redskins to draft Taylor with the fifth overall pick in the draft.

Portis also recounted the changes he witnessed in Taylor over the last two years.

"If you had your head down, he would pick it up real quick," Portis said. "He would always be there, no matter what. No one played with more heart."

After Portis finished, the arena’s video screens showed the 4-minute Sean Taylor tribute that played at FedExField on Sunday.

Later, Arrington arrived at the podium, at the request of Taylor’s father, and discussed his relationship with Sean Taylor.

When Taylor arrived as the Redskins’ first-round draft pick in 2004, Arrington was regarded as the face of the franchise. The two forged a bond, with Arrington trying to step up as a mentor in their two seasons together.

"I thought when Sean came to the Redskins, I was his guardian angel," Arrington said as he held back tears. "As God would have it, he turned out to be my guardian angel."

Arrington added: "Our heart breaks without him, but in time we’ll get past it. Sean, I love you as my brother, my friend."

Another poignant moment came from Buck Ortega, who played briefly with the Redskins in 2006 preseason. Ortega, a tight end, is currently on the New Orleans Saints’ practice squad.

Ortega played high school football with Taylor at Gulliver Prep in Miami. As a quarterback, he threw two touchdown passes to Taylor in the school’s title game victory. Ortega and Taylor went on to star at Miami.

Ortega rejoined his friend when he signed with the Redskins as an undrafted rookie free agent. He was released at the end of preseason, though.

Since then, Ortega and Taylor talked less frequently. That’s something that Ortega says he deeply regrets.

"Don’t ever take your friends and family for granted," he told the audience.

The funeral service ended after nearly two-and-a-half hours. The Redskins headed back to the airport for the trip back to Virginia.

As the team boarded its chartered plane, everyone appeared to be in better spirits. Mike Sellers lightened the mood by reminding the passengers that it was Rock Cartwright’s birthday on Monday.

"Please be sure to wish Rock Cartwright happy birthday," Sellers announced over the intercom system, eliciting good-hearted laughter throughout the plane.

It was a first step in returning to normalcy.

Certainly, the team still has a long way to go.

 

 

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