It stands to reason that a lot of players in the NFL today, particularly among the younger current members of teams, grew up wanting to be Sean Taylor. A top prospect out of Miami who was the fifth-overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, Taylor spent four years in the league, making the Pro Bowl in his third and fourth seasons and the first-team All-Pro list in 2007, before he was murdered late that season.
While he himself did not necessarily have the cleanest record off the field—and was wrongly used as a contributing factor in his death in the immediate aftermath before the details were actually revealed—Taylor’s untimely demise was felt all around the football community.
That included former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark, who was Taylor’s teammate for the latter’s first two seasons in the NFL. Wearing the number 25, for years he wanted to change his number to 21 in order to honor his friend, but a variety of legal and financial—as well as practical—circumstances would not allow it.
But now the Steelers’ youngest safety, 2016 second-round draft pick Sean Davis, has been given the opportunity to honor Taylor, whom he looked up to while growing up in Washington D.C. and the surrounding area, watching him play for the Washington Redskins.
There was a ripple effect preventing Davis from securing his desired number of 21, instead wearing 28 for his first two seasons. Former safety Robert Golden wore 21 for his first five seasons, but changed to 20 after Joe Haden was acquired, wearing 21 for himself, only because the 23 was owned by Mike Mitchell.
With Mitchell gone, Haden changed to 23, leaving 21 open for Davis to take. He had already worn the 21 in college. 21 was even already in his Twitter handle, meaning the change makes all the more sense.
He talked about his admiration for Taylor before he was drafted while at the 2016 NFL Combine, saying that he watched him while he was still in Miami. ‘The U’ was at the height of collegiate football at the time.
“Then when he was with the Redskins – I’m from Maryland so I’m a Redskins fan – and he wore No. 21 and his name was Sean, and I was like ‘this dude is perfect. I just want to idolize myself after him’”, he said. “I just loved everything about him. I’m a quiet dude and he was real quiet to himself, just like me. I definitely love Sean Taylor”.
And so he gets the opportunity to honor his idol the way Clark never got to do for his friend. While Clark consistently wore a number 21 jersey in practice, he never got to for games. But now when you see 21 out there for the Steelers, know that it is a number in honor of the late Sean Taylor.