Gabe Taylor woke up from a nightmare on Nov. 27, 2007.
It startled him awake, leaving his heart pounding in his chest. But that dream was nothing compared to the nightmare his family endured that day, when Gabe’s older brother, Sean, a star free safety for the then-Washington Redskins, died of a gunshot wound he sustained when armed burglars broke into his Florida home the day before.
Thirteen years later, Gabe Taylor is a 19-year-old freshman defensive back at Rice University. He spoke with NBC Sports Washington’s JP Finlay on the Washington Football Talk podcast about what it was like for him to learn of his brother’s death at seven years old.
“It didn’t feel real,” Taylor said. “I was just a little kid so I didn’t understand death at that time and I was seeing everybody crying. I was looking around like, ‘Why is everybody crying?’ and I just saw my brother’s name and stuff like that pop up and I was crying but it wasn’t real tears at that time and I didn’t really understand like I said. But sooner or later when I got older, I understand so it got more sensitive at that point.”
Taylor remembers not only how sad everyone was, but also how quiet the house got even when his family was grieving. He said his father, Pedro Taylor, never cried in front of him, even when they learned that Sean had died in the hospital. In the years that followed, Taylor grappled with the loss of his brother by trying to be strong for his dad, who despite the lack of tears took the loss of his firstborn child hard.
“For my dad, he takes it — it’s hard for him because I know that’s his No. 1 son right there, that’s his first son, his first child. But if he’s taking it the right way, I’m going to take it the right way because I see him first and I see myself; like that’s my brother but a son is more close. [Sean] really blueprint the whole platform for going to the league like that and I’m just following his steps right now.”
Now, Taylor is trying to forge his own career. Football has always been important to him, but the impact of his brother’s death took a new form once he reached the collegiate ranks. He’s realized he has an opportunity to carry on the Taylor name and that’s not something he’s taking lightly.
“It’s sad but I gotta keep going, I gotta do this for him,” Gabe said. “Everybody’s like literally, ‘Sean Taylor’s little brother here and this and that.’ But I just gotta put on, keep the legacy going.”