By Alaa Elassar, CNN
The Washington Football Team paid tribute Sunday to beloved football legend Sean Taylor, who was killed in 2007 while protecting his family from a home burglary.
The National Football League (NFL) team retired his jersey number, 21, during a ceremony before their game against the Kansas City Chiefs. During the pregame ceremony, nearly 100 alumni players were also honored at FedExField in Prince George’s County, Maryland, the Washington Football Team said in a press release Thursday.
This is the third time in the Washington Football Team’s 89-year history a jersey number was retired, according to the team.
“I came into the NFL the same year as Sean Taylor and immediately his athletic ability, resilience, grit, and relentless work ethic set him apart. I and many others looked to him as a role model,” Washington Football Team president Jason Wright said in the release.
“The fact that he was tragically taken so early hurt our player community, but also our fans, coaches, and staff. We will continue to remember him and hold him up as an example of professionalism and excellence, and we will all strive to mirror his excellence in our own ways.”
Taylor was 24 years old when he was shot during an apparent burglary at his home in Miami, where he was rehabilitating after a knee injury. He died the next day.
Police said Taylor and his girlfriend, Jackie Garcia, were awakened by noise coming from the living room early November 26. Taylor got up and locked the bedroom door, but the door was kicked in and two shots were fired.
A bullet struck the femoral artery in Taylor’s leg, causing massive blood loss. Garcia and the couple’s 18-month-old daughter were unharmed.
Four men were charged with felony first-degree murder in Taylor’s shooting death.
Honoring the father, brother, and football star
Taylor played for the Washington Football Team all four seasons of his NFL career, according to the team. He was regarded as one of the hardest-hitting players in the NFL.
The 2004 first-round draft pick also played at the University of Miami, where he was an All-American in 2003.
Taylor recorded 257 tackles (206 solo) during his brief career, two sacks and seven interceptions.
Dubbing him “the prototype NFL free safety,” Washington credited Taylor’s team-leading tackling prowess for sending him to his first Pro Bowl after 2006.
Along with retiring his jersey number, the Washington Football Team also renamed the road leading to FedExField as Sean Taylor Road in his honor, according to the release.
During the ceremony, Taylor’s family — including his daughter, fiancé, father, and siblings — joined the Washington Football Team on the field, holding his framed jersey and flying towels with his jersey number.
The rally towels, designed after the original towel created following Taylor’s death, have also been made available for fans to purchase, with all proceeds going to The Sean Taylor Legacy Project, led by his daughter Jackie Taylor.
His family was also given a private visit at Taylor’s locker, which has been “perfectly preserved from his last game,” the release said.
Wright issued an apology later Thursday to fans who wanted to attend the ceremony at FedExField to witness the moment but were unable to due to the late notice.
“We knew alumni weekend was the right moment for us to retire #21 so that we could have several generations of legends there to honor their Burgundy & Gold brother,” Wright said.
“We planned to do this right… But we screwed up the execution and, as a result, we realize that we hurt many of our fans deeply. And for that I and we as an organization are sorry.”
The Washington Football Team lost the game against the Kansas City Chiefs 31-13.
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