Taylor was complicated and conflicted at the Pro Bowl, too
BLAIR, Neb. » Sean Taylor, the policeman's son, who nonetheless seemed to have a knack for ending up in bad situations, surrounded by bad people, died too young.
Taylor, who everyone says was trying to turn his life around. Taylor, who many believe may have died because of his complicated past -- he may have known something was coming; he slept with a cane knife under his bed.
We in Hawaii knew him peripherally, the way we know NFL stars -- through the Pro Bowl.
He was here last season. Yes, it was this Sean Taylor, that Sean Taylor, who delivered in last year's game what many believe was the best and biggest hit the Pro Bowl had ever seen.
"That is the biggest hit in the HISTORY," Cowboys guard Larry Allen would say -- and he's played in 11 of these games.
You remember. Yes, the Sean Taylor everyone is talking about was the guy who came up, when Buffalo's Brian Moorman took off on a fake punt last year, and Taylor knocked him into Tuesday. Moorman and the football flew 5 yards in different directions. The place exploded. Moorman's heart exploded.
It was a Hallelujah Chorus highlight hit.
Everyone went crazy. Everybody celebrated; even the guy who'd been blasted by it felt joy at the gift of that hit.
Afterward, I sought out Sean Taylor. I found him in the locker room, in the back, in the dank and the dark. I asked him about that hit.
"Not talking," Sean Taylor said. That's it. Two words.
That's all he said.
"Not talking," he said again.
Huh? Why not?
"Not talking." Final. Tough guy. Hard.
And so I went around, to Allen, and to others. And then, on the way out of the locker room, I decided to stop and say goodbye to Taylor, just to be polite, just because we'd talked. And the strangest thing happened. It was like he'd flipped a switch. He smiled. Nicest guy in the world.
"Oh, OK, take care," he said. I think he even waved.
Like, nothing personal, he was a cool guy. He just wasn't talking. And as long as I wasn't asking, we could be friends.
Strange. I walked out of there stunned. Good guy putting up a bad front. Complicated, conflicted. And in the end you liked him, couldn't help it.
That's the guy all his friends are describing today.
The other players all liked him. His locker was next to San Francisco running back Frank Gore, who even after the game still seemed overwhelmed by the whole Pro Bowl experience.
Taylor seemed to sense it. He motioned to Gore's game jersey. "Want to trade me?"
Taylor asked -- a high honor among all-stars.
Gore was speechless, didn't know how to react. His pause gave Taylor time to think.
"No," Taylor said on second thought. "That's your first one. You keep it."
It was Frank Gore's first one.
Sean Taylor's last.