No one touches that number. No one speaks of it. When a new player arrives in Washington and is eligible for the number, and is asked what code they want to be known by, they skate around it, their eyes lingering around the edges of the paper, searching for more options. As if the choice itself is blacked out. Erased. Gone forever. They avoid it. Why? Because they know. Everyone knows.
No one touches the number 21. And they never will. It’s a sign of respect. For an NFL great who died too young. For a fearless safety who didn’t get to pummel opponents as long as he wanted to. It’s for a star that faded too fast.
But it’s not just that. Sean Taylor was more than a football player. It’s for a kid who was turning a corner. A boy grown up, who was learning his way in the world, learning to be the best person he could be. A young man who had accomplished greatness, and a man who had greatness ahead of him. A cherished friend to many, and a fan favorite to all. A father to one. A changing man.
He was a Miami kid who had come a long way. And his journey ended too soon. But although short, his story will never be forgotten. Twelve years after his death, we remember Sean Taylor.
Note: This is a re-posting of the original article published two years ago, in accordance with the ten-year anniversary of Sean Taylor’s death.