Jaret Patterson was heading to school on Nov. 27, 2007, when he heard the tragic news. Sean Taylor, one of the Washington Football Team's brightest stars of that decade, died at Jackson Memorial Hospital after being shot at his house in Florida.
Like countless others, Patterson cried for a person he had never met, but meant so much to him.
"That's how much of an impact Sean Taylor had on me, the whole organization and the whole [DMV] area," Patterson said.
During Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Washington will retire Taylor’s No. 21 jersey to honor his impact on the franchise. His relentless approach to the game, which led to several highlights still praised to this day, inspired many of his teammates. For many of Washington's current players who grew up watching Taylor, the late safety's influence is still fresh on their minds.
"He was a legend," Chase Young told reporters Thursday afternoon.
The Washington Football Team continues to prepare for its Week 6 matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Karlee Sell/Washington Football Team)
Like Patterson, Young grew up just a few miles away from FedExField and played at DeMatha Catholic High School. Everything about Taylor, even details like the way he put tape on his face mask, stood out to Young. But his physicality -- Taylor notably called himself the hardest-hitting player in his draft class -- against bigger players like Jerome Bettis was a trait Young admired the most.
"He made you want to play for Washington," Young said. "I wish he was still here, man."
Taylor had a knack for making plays that Patterson remembers well. He was familiar with Taylor's style from when he played for the University of Miami, so he knew Washington had drafted a unique player when was taken No. 5 overall. He recalled his interception returned for a touchdown against the Denver Broncos during the preseason in 2004 and his hit on Bills punter Brian Moorman in the 2006 Pro Bowl.
Patterson loved Taylor; he even made a poster of Taylor that he hung in his basement after his death. To him, the fact that so many people were affected by the news speaks to the kind of person Taylor was on and off the field.
"He was a person you wanted to play with and you wanted to talk to," Patterson said. "He was just a great person."
Patterson, who was signed as an undrafted free agent this offseason and earned a roster spot in training camp, considers himself lucky to be in a position to represent him with the way he plays.
"Just seeing him play was tremendous," Patterson said. "It was an honor seeing him play at FedExField."
There's no doubt that Taylor is one of the fanbase's most-beloved players. He was one-of-a-kind, Patterson said, and it's a big moment for the team to retire his number. And while the 2000s were full of favorites like Santana Moss and Chris Cooley, Patterson grew up wanting to be like Taylor.
"He was one of the best safeties," Patterson said. "He was just a freak athlete."