Landon Collins is not shy when it comes to telling people how much he admires former Redskins safety Sean Taylor.
As Collins grew up in New Orleans, Taylor meant everything to him. He idolized the University of Miami product, and he modeled his entire playing style after Taylor with his tireless work ethic and hard-hitting tackles.
Collins followed his role model this past offseason by signing a multi-year deal with the Redskins. He hasn't even played a full 16 games yet, and he has already totaled more tackles than Taylor ever did in a single season.
"It's exciting for me," Collins said after the Redskins' 41-35 overtime loss to the New York Giants. "To beat my favorite player's record is outstanding and a dream come true."
Collins had six tackles against the New York Giants on Sunday to bring his total for the year to 117 in 15 games, according to ESPN.com, surpassing Taylor's best season of 111 in 2006. Collins leads the team in total and solo tackles (78), and last week it was announced that he was a first alternate for the 2020 Pro Bowl. He is the first Redskins safety since Taylor to have at least 111 tackles in one year.
It's been 13 seasons since Taylor made his first Pro Bowl after leading the Redskins in tackles to go along with three forced fumbles. There have been other players like London Fletcher who have passed Taylor in tackles, but none of them were safeties. Ryan Clark had 102 in 2014 while Dashon Goldson had 110 in 2015.
This season isn't the first time Collins has surpassed 100 tackles; it isn't even the first time he has overtaken Taylor's career-high (he did it in back-to-back seasons when he was with the Giants). But it is a little different with him being in a Redskins jersey playing for the same team as someone who had such an impact on his life.
"He's been my idol, he's the reason I play this game...and play it so much passion and heart," Collins said.
From the moment he stepped onto Lincoln Financial Field in the season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, Collins has been one of the most reliable players on a defense that has been riddled with injuries. Through the first nine games of the season, Collins led all safeties with 78 tackles and was fourth in the league overall.
He's currently third in his position and tied for 15th overall with Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David.
"He's definitely one of my favorite safeties that I've played with," said linebacker Jon Bostic. "Just how physical he is in the run game. He's smart. He can do it all back there. He just adds a whole other element."
That same physical style is what Taylor was well known for in his 55 NFL games. He was tough, smart and never believed in taking plays off. That's what Collins loved about him growing up.
"My guy played with a lot of passion," Collins said on the anniversary of Taylor's death. "He played with a lot of heart. The man's accountability, compassion and heart on the field, he played with that each and every game. Watching him play, you knew he was giving it his all and his last on each and every play."
Collins is one of the best safeties in the NFL today, but his tackling is one of his best attributes. As it stands, Collins has 553 tackles in 74 games.
"My style is different from most [defensive backs]," Collins said. "Most of them are cut tacklers. They cut at the knees. If I'm cutting at the knees, it's only because the guy is far away from me and the only thing I can do is dive. All DBs tackle; not all of them do it the way I do it."
Collins had 110 total tackles this season heading into the Giants game needing just two to surpass Taylor. He tied Taylor in the first quarter by combining with defensive tackle and fellow Pro Bowl alternate Matt Ioannidis to bring down running back Saquon Barkley.
For the tackle to pass Taylor, Collins brought Barkley down by himself in the fourth quarter for his 77th solo tackle. He has 78 so far this season, and interim head coach Bill Callahan has always loved how Collins is able to bring players down.
"...His ability to bring down a tackle with his physicality is impressive," Callahan said. "Every day he comes to work, he's focused, he works hard, he's diligent, he's tough and he's physical."
Collins remembers crying when he found out that Taylor was killed in a shooting on Nov. 27, 2007, and he always wished that he could have met the player who meant so much to him.
Sadly, that never happened, but Collins can take some solace in the fact that his and Taylor's name are together in the Redskins' history books.
There are plenty of players and former teammates who honor Taylor, and Collins is among them. He posted a picture of Taylor on Twitter on the anniversary of his death, and as Collins continues to inch closer to passing more of Taylor's stats, he'll never forget Taylor was the one who inspired him.
"Just letting him know he's always going to be remembered and never forgotten," Collins said of the photo. "I wish he was still here."