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From Landon Collins to Kam Chancellor: How Sean Taylor continues to inspire

From Landon Collins to Kam Chancellor: How Sean Taylor continues to inspire

When asked to describe the type of player Sean Taylor was, former Redskins great Brian Mitchell had three comparisons: 

“Imagine Steve Atwater, Ronnie Lott and Ed Reed all mixed in one,” he said on the Sports Uncovered podcast, which debuted on Thursday. 

Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing around 230 pounds, Taylor looked more like a linebacker than a defensive back. But what he did on the field revolutionized the position forever, and even to this day players want to be like Taylor.

Let’s start in the same secondary Taylor roamed for four years in Washington. Landon Collins may have grown up in New Orleans, but perhaps no other player in the NFL gets more inspiration from No. 21 than No. 20 does today for the Burgundy and Gold, thanks to the undeniable similarities between the two.

“I’m watching highlights and I’m constantly seeing 21, 21, 21 making big, ginormous hits on highlight tapes and stuff like that, so I was like ‘let me figure out who Sean Taylor is,” Collins said on the podcast. “After watching his highlight tapes I’m like, ‘wow, he’s playing with so much aggression, he’s playing like he hates the other team that he’s playing against. That’s how I feel playing against anybody.”

“I feel like this is me, just an older me that’s already playing the position I want to play… It was just crazy that it was like hand-in-hand, I mean I feel like I'm walking in the same footsteps.”

Carrying himself like Taylor has been a priority since a 9-year-old Collins saw Taylor hitting anything that moved on those highlight tapes. It provided somewhat of a blueprint for the aspiring safety, so Collins wore No. 26 at Alabama (Taylor was No. 26 at Miami), then he donned No. 21 (famously Taylor’s number with the Redskins) with the New York Giants before settling on No. 20 in Washington, as a sign of respect to his football idol.


“I’m not trying to replace No. 21, I’m not trying to do anything to make anybody upset, but to me it was something that I idolized, and I knew at this moment I don’t think anybody from this time or forever will wear No. 21 again, so I wore No. 20 just to honor him right next to his number… I have some big shoes to fill at the same time, but I’m going to do it all if I can.”

Collins is far from the only player to feel this way. Former Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger wore No. 36 with Washington (Taylor’s old number during his rookie year), laced-up Taylor inspired cleats and even decorated his facemask with tape before big games just like Sean used to. As Swearinger told NBC Sports Washington back in 2017, Taylor provided inspiration on the right way to play the position.

“Every time he was on, I was glued to the TV just trying to see what he did, how he hit people, how he had range in the middle, how he came downhill and knocked the ball loose, just how he was a dominant force on the field,” Swearinger said. “I wanted to be that dominant force wherever I was at.”

The list goes on: New Redskins safety Sean Davis, former Redskins safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Virginia native and 4-time Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor, and All-Pro safety Eric Berry have all opened up about how Sean Taylor inspired them (and that’s just to name a few). It’s not only safeties though, Taylor was even a favorite of 2020 second overall pick Chase Young while he was growing up in the DMV, and now the Ohio State product will look to have a similar impact on the Redskins defense that a young Hurricane had over a decade ago. 


It is truly incredible that Sean Taylor’s playing style is still talked about to this day, a fact not lost on those who have seen it all in the NFL, like 12-year NFL veteran and longtime Redskins analyst Trevor Matich.

“Some of the best at the position in the league are looking at Sean Taylor to see how they should play to be better,” Matich said. “Think about that - I mean it’s one thing to look at a player and say, ‘Ok, he’s pretty good,’ it’s another thing for you to be one of the best in the business and you say, ‘I can get better if I do things more like he did it.’ That’s a compliment.”

“When you talk about Sean Taylor, when you see tributes to Sean Taylor, he’s affected more players in the NFL at this point than anyone else,” said Clinton Portis, Taylor’s teammate at the University of Miami and with the Redskins. “You’re talking about most of your top players in the NFL want to emulate or idolize Sean Taylor.”It’s great to model your game after a legendary player, but what about replacing him? The Redskins have been trying to find success in the secondary for over 12-years without much luck. Super Bowl XVII champion Joe Theismann has seen it all with this franchise, and warns against setting the bar too high for a replacement.

“We’re looking for someone like Sean Taylor, it’s like looking for a Lawrence Taylor. It’s like looking for a Tom Brady. It’s like looking for Peyton Manning. It’s like looking for John Riggins, you don’t find that, they’re rare to find,” Theismann said. “The search continues I think for us, I really think Landon Collins is the kind of a young player that can be close to that kind of a guy… to me, what I see in Landon is a lot of Sean.”

Collins sees a lot of Sean in himself too, and appears ready for the challenge ahead.

“It’s like a dream come true, it's unreal. Like I’m still floating on a cloud but I’m here now, got some big shoes to fill that I’m trying to make happen.”

Listen to the full episode of Sports Uncovered's Sean Taylor: The NFL Superstar We Didn't Get to Know, click here.

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Brian Mitchell says an open-minded convo is needed on Redskins' name: 'In this life, things change'

Brian Mitchell says an open-minded convo is needed on Redskins' name: 'In this life, things change'

On Wednesday, it was reported that investment firms and shareholders worth a collective $620 billion have asked Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo to terminate their business relationships with the Washington Redskins unless the team agrees to change its name.

The news came in the midst of an increase in pushback toward the franchise as demand for racial justice swells across the country. Early Thursday, former Redskins running back and current NBC Sports Washington analyst Brian Mitchell spoke with Richard Graves of Sky Sports News about the issue. Mitchell stated that he believes change is going to come.

"Eventually, the way things seem to be rolling now, it's inevitable," Mitchell said.

Since his statements, the issue has only escalated. FedEx, which holds the naming rights to the Redskins stadium, released a statement saying “We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name." Others around the sports world have also commented on the issue, and Nike has removed all Redskins merchandise from its site.


Amid the ever-growing movement, recent actions have only confirmed Mitchell's beliefs, rather than surprised him.

The main reason he believes this is the normal course is due to the major brands that are now involved. To Mitchell, wealth has become a determining factor in what changes get made in America.

“Nothing happens in our country unless someone’s money is affected," Mitchell told NBC Sports Washington. "When you see that start to happen, then you see things start to happen. I think immediately when I started hearing that thing I felt that somebody was going to say something.”

However, FedEx being the first to speak out was something Mitchell didn't fully expect to see so quickly. Not only because the company sponsors the Redskins stadium, and holds a deal with them through 2025, but because FedEx President and CEO Frederick Smith owns a minority stake in the Redskins. 

That decision by a brand so intertwined with the team for years is what has Mitchell thinking things are only beginning.

“I think when you see things like that, you have to believe that something is moving now in the direction that we think it would be moving," Mitchell said. “If they’re starting to stay stuff, if they felt the pressure to say something, I have to believe that somebody else will feel the pressure as well.”

While companies speaking out is a start, others with power will ultimately control the decision. Namely, Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who has been outspoken in the past that the name is not something that is going to be changed, pointing to the long history of the franchise. Mitchell understands that point of view, but also feels that the name isn't what should represent the success.

He brings up a question he's asked time and time again surrounding the debate over the name.

“Do you cheer for the name or for the overall franchise, or do you cheer for players, cheer for the pride and all that type of things?" Mitchell said.

“Last time I saw people buying jerseys, I saw people buying jerseys with people's last names on the back of the jersey," Mitchell said. "Normally, what's on the back of the jersey is what people represent.”

In the end, that's what Mitchell believes it comes down to. Changing the name is not about tarnishing the legacy of the players and teams that have passed through Washington, but rather showing acceptance to those who are offended by the term.

Like in the past, life changes. As people grow and learn, holding on to the way things were in the past isn't what Mitchell believes to be right.

“Everybody wasn’t offended. But guess what? Those words left. You stopped using those words," Mitchell said “If something is offensive, we have to get to the point where we think of that all the same. In this life, things change, whether we want it or not sometimes. But I’ve always been told by my coaches when I played sports, you have to adjust. I think the same thing has to happen in life.” 

So, how exactly will this change come about? For Mitchell, who has dealt with this discussion since he joined the team in 1990, the same formula he preached back then needs to be enacted now. People need to come together with an open mind and a willingness to communicate, something he's seen the country struggle with constantly.

“I said then that what needs to happen is you need to have adults to sit down, and have a conversation. An educated, mature conversation, and then come up with a decision," Mitchell said. “You don’t go into the decision with a closed mind. You don’t go into a conversation with a closed mind. If you go into it with an open mind and just listen.”

No matter what comes in the future, Mitchell has seen enough to know the current state won't remain the same. As he said earlier in the day, there's no avoiding what is to come.

“It seems to be inevitable that something is going to happen," Mitchell said. 

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Nike removes Redskins name, apparel from its website

Nike removes Redskins name, apparel from its website

Nike was one of three companies to reportedly have received a letter recently from investors asking that it sever ties with the Washington Redskins unless the team changes its name.

Another of those companies, FedEx, responded Thursday by formally requesting that the team change its name. Nike and the third company, PepsiCo, have yet to respond, but there is a major omission from the Nike website that maybe hints at what's to come.


Nike, the NFL's official gameday uniform supplier, is no longer allowing customers to purchase Washington apparel from its website. The NFL page has every team listed on the left sidebar except Washington. Furthermore, its shopping filters also omit Washington and its search function pulls up other teams but no results for Washington.

It's unclear when Nike made this change to its website. AdWeek reported Wednesday that investment firms and shareholders worth a collective $620 billion sent letters to Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo last Friday.

In its request on Thursday, FedEx said, “We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name.“

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