The team honored the memory of a safety who starred for Washington from 2004 to 2007. Taylor died during the 2007 season at age 24 when he was shot by an intruder in his home in Florida.
Rams safeties John Johnson and Jordan Fuller grew up idolizing Taylor, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound player who was the fifth pick in the 2004 draft after starring in college at Miami. Taylor, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, intercepted 12 passes in three-plus seasons, and was regarded as one of the league’s most dynamic playmakers.
Johnson, 24, and Fuller, 22, are looking forward to playing in the stadium where Taylor excelled when the Rams (3-1) play Washington (1-3) on Sunday.
Johnson was raised in nearby Hyattsville, Md., and spent his youth as a Dallas Cowboys fan. But affection for Taylor crossed all allegiances, he said.
“He was the safety to us,” Johnson said in a phone interview. “Even though I wasn’t a [Washington] fan, he was the No. 1 safety in my eyes.
“He could just do it all. He was a freak athlete, he hit people, went and got the ball, played special teams — like he clearly could do no wrong. No matter who you were rooting for, like everyone rooted for Sean Taylor.”
Fuller, whose uncle, Brett, serves as Washington’s team chaplain, said Taylor was his and his brother Devin’s favorite player.
“Just the impact he would make on the game,” Fuller said in a phone interview. “He put a lot of fear in offenses and especially QBs’ heads, receivers too, for sure. Just the way he played, it felt like he was everywhere.”
Johnson and Fuller said they remembered where they were Nov. 27, 2007, when they heard Taylor had died. Johnson was at school in Maryland, Fuller was walking home from school in New Jersey.
“One of my brother’s friends told us and were like, ‘No, you’re lying, you’re lying,’” Fuller said. “But, yeah, I remember, for sure.”
Fuller said he was a different player than Taylor, but would like to emulate the effect he had on games.
“Have an offense kind of circle you in the scouting report, kind of stuff like that,” Fuller said. “That’s definitely something I want to be able to do. I want to be that guy.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.