Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sean Taylor: 21 Means Change

I’m headed to the mall to purchase a number 21 Washington Redskins jersey. It will be the first and only jersey in my closet. That thug life look is not the image I want to reflect. I want the jersey to honor the changes Sean Taylor was making. Taylor was killed during an invasion at his Miami home.

From all accounts Taylor’s life changed with the birth of his daughter 18 months ago. His bad boy ways had landed him in trouble on and off the field. He was suspended by the league after spitting in the face of a player and had a history of gun-related legal issues. Having a baby changed all of that.

Antrel Rolle has known Taylor for most of his life. The two played football together at the age of six for the Homestead Hurricanes and went on to play together at the University of Miami from 2001-2003. Rolle, a cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals, says Taylor was being targeted for more than three years.

During an interview with ESPN, Rolle said Taylor lived scared everyday of his life while in Miami. “It was not a burglary under any circumstances,” Rolle said. “Lot of people knew Sean. There was a lot of jealously, lot of envious people. A lot of people he no longer hung out with.”

Miami-Dade police are still investigating a link to a Nov. 17 break-in at Taylor’s home, in which police said someone pried open a front window, went through drawers and left a kitchen knife on a bed. If Rolle’s assessment is correct, the death of Taylor may provide a glimpse at the struggle NFL players have in pulling away from the thug lifestyle.

Close to a year ago, Broncos’ cornerback Darrent Williams was killed in a drive-by shooting following an argument at a Denver nightclub. University of Miami defensive lineman Bryan Pata was sot to death in November 2006 several miles from Taylor’s home. Then there’s the brawl with Adam “Pacman” Jones of the Tennessee Titans at a Las Vegas strip club where three people were shot.

After that incident, Robert Susnar, co-owner of the Minxx Gentleman’s Club, told ESPN “the NFL is starting to look like an organized crime family, and I find that objectionable.”

Sad is the jealously that brews hostility among those frustrated because of their own condition. Rolle said there are jealous people who targeted Taylor. People he once hung out with before the birth of his daughter. Could it be they reaped the benefits of Taylor’s lifestyle until he decided to rid himself of all the bad that came with hanging with the boys? Could it be that separating oneself from the thug life brings consequences that those on the outside don’t understand?

Of course all of this is speculation. For now no one knows who shot Taylor. We do know his life had changed. We know this wasn’t the first break in at his home and that a knife was placed on a pillow. Burglars normally don’t leave weapons on pillows. It was a warning.
Taylor died at the age of 24. “It’s hard to expect a man to grow up overnight,” said Clinton Portis, the star running back with the Redskins. "But ever since he had his child, it was like a new Sean, and everybody around here knew it. He was always smiling, always happy, always talking about his child."

So, I’ll wear number 21 in honor of Taylor and his desire to change. I’ll think of him on Sunday when I preach my sermon. I will think of him the next time I watch a football game. What will I think? Change is a good thing, but it’s much better when you don’t have to deal with the pain that comes with change. There are so many people who refuse to let it happen. They would rather see you suffer with them than to grant you the space to become the man God wants you to be.


  1. You've made a powerful proposition: 21 for positive change is a beautiful tribute to both Sean Taylor and to others who face the challenges of creating new paths for themselves in life. Thanks for illuminating another side to this story.

  2. Growing up most people hear the saying "misery needs company." This saying has so many meanings on so many different levels. When one is essentially "down-and-out" they find themselves becoming friends with someone else who is "down-and-out", causing nothing but a vicious cycle. When someone tries to better themselves, and takes the time to better themselves,people look at them and wonder why. Unless you are trying to better yourself as well you will never see the point. You will never understand why they want to be someone better than what they are. There is nothing wrong with trying to better yourself, however people will try to bring you down just because they don't want to see you doing better than they are. Misery needs company. The things people will do to bring someone else down is completely and utterly sickening. If people focused all the energy they use to bring somebody down on doing something productive for themselves this world would be so much easier to live in. One must see past all the hatred that may surround them if they want to succeed. If they do not they will allow themselves to fall and to fail. One must overcome that tribulation and acknowledge that it exists or they will never get where they want to be. The key to overcoming is knowledge, its the knowledge of knowing whats going on around you whether you like it or not. If you don't see the hole in front of you then you don't know to walk around it. Thats what people need to recognize, that other people dig that hole just waiting to see them fall so deep they cant climb back out.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Carl... I absolutely love the "change" perspective you present in your commentary on the Taylor incident. I think it is very plausible and inspirational at once. I have a nagging question that lingers in my mind though. How much of this tragedy had to do with the people jealous of the change Taylor was pursuing in his life verses the idea that his past finally "caught up with him?" You and I both know that "God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows (Gal 6:7)." My inquiry and point are made with all due respect to you, the family and Taylor's memory.

  5. Wow. Not to be a copycat, but what an inspirational purchase... and I can see myself doing the same thing. Thanks, Carl, for hope.