Gabriel Taylor, the younger brother of the late Sean Taylor, wants to follow in his brother’s footsteps and play in the NFL. The younger Taylor told Sports Illustrated in a feature published this week that he wants to play for the same franchise and wear the same number as his late brother. Sean, the former Washington All-Pro safety was murdered during a home invasion in 2007.
“Jim Thorpe [Award], that’s my main goal,” Gabriel says. “[And] I want to wear 21 for the Commanders. That would be the cherry on top of the cake.”
Look close on Saturday, during @USC_FB vs. @RiceFootball, and you’ll see a little bit of Sean Taylor, who died 15 years ago.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) September 2, 2022
Gabriel is a sophomore strong safety for Rice University. Last season he led the team with 44 unassisted tackles, was second with three interceptions and eight passes defended, and fifth with 56 total tackles.
It has been 15 years since Sean Taylor was murdered, but his spirit lives within his younger brother. Gabriel wants to follow in his brother’s footsteps because Sean predicted it.
“Gabriel’s gonna be great, because when I was his age, I was so uncoordinated;” Sean told Gabriel’s mother, Simone. “I couldn’t do the same things he’s doing. For real, he’s just different.”
“He saw something in me that I never saw,” Gabriel says. “But he never told me that before he passed away.”
Gabriel was a redshirt freshman last season and has plenty of time before he’s ready for the NFL draft. He studies highlights of his brother from both his days at the University of Miami and in the NFL with Washington.
“My instinct is to get the ball. [Sean’s was] more to hit you as hard as he can,” Gabriel says. “So, I’m trying to take everything I can from him — and then bring it into the new generation.”
Sean was only 24 when he was murdered. A two-time Pro Bowl selection and an All-Pro, he was well on his way to being the best safety in the game.
Gabriel was just a child when Sean died and couldn’t process his brother’s death in the moment.
“I remember looking around at the funeral, wondering why everyone was crying,” Gabriel says. “I didn’t understand death.”
But Simone remembers when the reality eventually landed on her son.
“Gabriel was on the laptop,” she told the magazine. “All of a sudden I heard him start bawling, and he was pointing to the screen. He was [watching] some of Sean’s highlights. And he was realizing that his brother wasn’t coming back.”
Gabriel is serious about becoming the best safety he can be and winning the Jim Thorpe Award. The honor given to the nation’s top defensive back. Gabriel and his father Pete, also Sean’s dad, study film to go over player tendencies.
“Our scouting days are Tuesday, so by Monday my dad already knows who’s fast, who’s not, what their tendencies are,” Gabriel says.
Pete used to help Sean study film as well, helping him as a rookie break down tape of then Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss.
“He knows where he wants to go, where he’s headed,” Pete says of Gabriel. “It just reminds me of the other boy.”
There is no way to know if Gabriel will follow exactly in Sean’s footsteps, but he’s definitely going to do everything he can to honor his late brother.
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