Born and raised in Prince George's County, Md., running back Jaret Patterson grew up a big fan of the Washington Football Team. Some of the 22-year-old's earliest memories of the Burgundy and Gold include watching franchise icons Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, Chris Cooley and the late Sean Taylor.
When Taylor tragically died on Nov. 27, 2007, Patterson remembers exactly where he was and how he felt. In fact, when he heard the news that one of his favorite players had been killed, he started to tear up.
"I can remember the day, heading to school and hearing the tragic news of him passing away and me crying," Patterson said Thursday. "That's how much of an impact Sean Taylor had on me, the whole organization and just the whole D.C., Maryland area."
Additionally, Patterson -- who was just seven years old at the time of Taylor's passing -- made a poster of the Washington safety when he died.
"[The poster] in my basement. I have pictures and all," Patterson said. "That's how much of an impact he had on me."
Patterson, now a rookie running back for his hometown team, will be on the sidelines Sunday when the team holds a pregame ceremony officially retiring Taylor's iconic No. 21. Taylor's family and friends will be present at FedEx Field for the ceremony, along with numerous former Washington players as part of the team's Alumni Homecoming Weekend.
"I just heard we're retiring his number. That's big," Patterson said. "He was a one-of-a-kind player. I think that's great and I can't wait to see the ceremony. Hopefully, we get the win so we can represent him because he's definitely a big part of this organization."
Although Patterson was young when Taylor played, he was able to rattle off several different parts of Taylor's career that have stuck with him to this day.
"When he first got into the league, he wore No. 36. I remember his first preseason game, he played against the Broncos and caught a pick-six," Patterson said. "I knew a little bit about Sean Taylor and that Miami team. But he came to us, I'm like 'we got a guy.' You want him to play on your team."
Besides Taylor's preseason pick-six against Denver, Patterson cited the safety's huge hit on Bills punter Brian Moorman in the Pro Bowl as another memory of No. 21 that he'll never forget.
Patterson never met Taylor but said Thursday he wishes he had the chance to. He did, however, get to watch the safety in person at FedEx Field, a memory he still cherishes to this day.
"I wish he was still alive," the running back said.
As a kid, Patterson said he wanted to be like Taylor on the field, but joked he knew he didn't have the size to be as forceful as Taylor was.
"He was one of the best safeties. He could cover ground. He was just a freak athlete," Patterson said. "He was like a linebacker at safety but could move. Of course, as a kid I'm like 'Damn, I want to be like that.' Of course, I'm not his size, but just seeing him play was tremendous. It was an honor."
Now suiting up for Washington, Patterson remains one of many people in the Washington community that has remained attached to Taylor and his legacy, even years after his tragic death.
"It just says what type of person he was on the field and off the field," Patterson said. "Just looking on the outside in, he's a person you wanted to play with, you wanted to talk to."
The running back recalled that when Taylor first arrived in Washington, many thought he was a villain or a bad person. But as his time in Washington went on, he quickly became a fan favorite.
"When he came here, people thought he was a villain and stuff like that," Patterson said. "Then people started to notice, 'this is a good guy.' He just played balls to the wall. I just feel like he was a great person. The organization was lucky to have him and I'm lucky to be here and represent him."