The speculation over whether safety Landon Collins would choose 21 as his jersey number began as soon as rumors swirled that he'd agreed to a new contract with the Washington Redskins.
A longtime admirer of Sean Taylor, the last player to wear the number in a Redskins uniform, Collins spent a couple weeks considering a decision that he knew would tug the emotional strings of the franchise's fan base. Ultimately, as the team announced last week, he opted to wear No. 20 for the 2019 season.
"I would love to wear the jersey," Collins said in a recent phone interview. "But I'm going to take it as I'm going to prove myself and try to get the jersey next year."
Collins wrestled with the decision more as he saw Redskins fans and Taylor's former teammates express their opinions about the matter over social media. Collins hadn't been able to speak with Sean's father, Pedro, and ultimately felt it would be better to wait until he had one season with Washington under his belt to adopt his idol's number.
"I know myself, I know my game, I know how I'm going to play, so I'm not really worried about the season, it's more people understanding that they see the same passionate player that ST was," he said. "Like anybody else, I wouldn't want nobody else to where a number that doesn't go out and play hard, have the leadership, have the passion, have the drive, have the hunger that he had each and every Sunday."
Collins said he did think about wearing No. 36, Taylor's rookie number, but knew Taylor never wanted to wear that number long-term.
"If you really think about it, if he wanted to be 36, he'd be still wearing the number to the end of his career," Collins said.
Collins admitted he thought Taylor's number was already retired when he signed with the Redskins, "so I never assumed I would be able to wear the number," he said. "Hearing from the fans that it's not officially retired, I was like, 'That's crazy,' but in the back of my head I was never trying to [sign with] the Redskins to get the number."
At his introductory press conference, Collins said that Taylor had been an impactful part of his life since middle school, when he started watching him play. The new Redskins safety, reflecting further on what would have been Taylor's 36th birthday on Monday, shared his feelings on a heart-heavy day.
"I just look at [his birthday] like it's another day he could have been playing in the game, another day I could be watching him play, or getting a chance to talk to him, or even getting a chance to play next to him," Collins said. "I know he's watching down on all of us, especially the ones that looked up to him, that idolized him, wanted to be just like him throughout our career. He's definitely smiling on us."