By Chris Lingebach

Santana Moss opened up about his friend and former Redskins teammate, the late Sean Taylor, this week on the anniversary of Taylor’s death.

Taylor, if he were alive today, would be 34, but he was tragically taken from this earth 10 years ago when he was murdered during a home invasion.

On this anniversary, Moss found himself contemplating if, in death, Taylor has gone on to serve a higher purpose.

“My youngest boy, he was born in 2009,” Moss told Thom Loverro and Andy Pollin on 106.7 The Fan. “So that’s two years removed from Sean’s death. And one of the first words besides ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ was ‘Sean Taylor.’ Like, he came out speaking of Sean, and it’s like, the older he got, he wanted to know more about Sean Taylor. And I was like, what is going on? Like, how?”

“So fast-forward to yesterday before [my son] left [the house],” he said. “I was going out the door to go and get some food or something for the house, and in my dining room area, I have a picture of Sean Taylor. And my daughter is in the picture looking at Sean, and she has on my jersey and she’s looking at him, but it’s all in one picture.

“And, as I passed the dining room, I look over and I see my son, that same son. He’s now eight years old. He’s sitting on the seat, and I had to ask him before I hit the door, like, ‘What are you doing?’ And he looked up and said, ‘Dad, didn’t Sean Taylor die around this time?’ He didn’t say how many years ago, but he knew it was around Thanksgiving. And he was just wanting to ask more questions and more questions.”

Moss thought about all the young stars around the NFL who now idolize Taylor, who publicly cite him as an inspirational figure in their lives. Guys like Packers safety HaHa Clinton-Dix, Giants safety Landon Collins, Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger and Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor. It got Moss thinking about Taylor’s greater purpose beyond life.

“It’s crazy how my son, he wasn’t even here and it means something to him,” Moss said. “Every time he hears that name. Every time he sees it. Like, I even remember days going in his room, and he’s on his iPad late night watching highlights and stuff, and the first position he wanted to play when he played the game at five was safety.”

“[Taylor] has an impact on a lot of kids’ lives, just hearing the stories,” he said. “Even the ones who wasn’t here, but the ones who are able to hear stories from their dads and from their loved ones who knew him. And you wonder what a guy’s purpose is, why he’s here and why he’s gone.”

Moss also looks back on Taylor’s death as an important wake-up call.

“I look back it like this,” he said. “Regardless of what happened to lead to that point, still, it was stupid by the ones who did it and you can’t say ‘this’ caused ‘that.’ At the end of the day, it was a tragedy that I think woke up a lot of folks, especially the ones who wasn’t that close to him. And I hope that a lot of the athletes and people who hear the stories every year when we remember him take pride into some of the things that they’re hearing about him, as a person and as a player, and really get a clearer picture of the one that left and the way they wanted to paint him.”

Moss hasn’t forgotten the unflattering portrayal many in sports media used to depict Taylor as a person. It still pulls at him today, knowing so many got it so wrong.

“The media really did not have an idea of who he was,” Loverro noted. “And that’s unfortunate, because who he was in the media early in his career was not a positive image. But this is why it’s important for his teammates — guys like you and others — to talk about the stories of Sean Taylor, because nobody really knew him except you guys. And that’s why I think these memories, remembering what he did, telling stories about who he was, it reminds us that this was a different guy than the rest of the world knew about, a much different guy.”

“I fought with the media for being the media at those times when they didn’t know enough about him,” Moss said. “Because they took what he had dealt with and said, ‘Well, he should feel a certain way. He should still talk to us.’ You know, he was a kid and he was a young guy that took things that were said about him hard, and felt like, ‘You know what? I can’t talk to you guys if you’re gonna make me look like that.’

“So he was young and didn’t really know how to deal with the media. I’ve been that guy. I was in New York, in one of the worst areas to ever have to deal with it, and I was the same way. I didn’t know how to deal with ’em, but you would think that we knew how because we’re coming from University of Miami where everything is publicized, everything that we do is almost magnified.”

“So he dealt with it the way he dealt with it,” Moss said. “But he was still learning and growing, and then when that tragedy happened, I was pissed.

“I wanted to grab guys that I saw write reports about, ‘Well something like this should happen to a guy who lived his life like this.’ You don’t know JACK. I look back at those times now and say, well, you know, that’s that guy who wrote that story, because I know now he’s swallowing those words, just hearing so much about the guy and just knowing a little more about the guy.”

“But, back then, I think what the media did was saw how terrifying he was to others between those white lines and painted that picture outside the game,” he said. “And [they’d] say, ‘That’s who he is. He’s a guy that’s a bully on the streets and you’ve got to be scared of him, and he don’t talk to us, so we’re gonna fear him and then we’re gonna talk trash about him with our stories.'”

“I think you’re right,” Loverro said. “I think you nailed it.”

Taylor’s death rattled the football world to its core. It did for Moss as well, but it did more than that. It changed how he viewed life altogether.

“I always talk about how the life of an athlete, the life of most of our football offseason lives is like a blur,” he said. “You know, everything we’re doing is so fast. We’re playing in the season for so long, and then after that season, you’re saying I have two or three months to enjoy life, enjoy the off-time with family and myself, and then get right back into the thick of things and get ready for another season. So those years go by so quick.”

“Being one of those guys that I live life to the fullest — and to this day, I enjoy it and I appreciate it, all the memories and just knowing how I was riding and doing things back then — I think his death really slowed a lot down for me,” he said. “It gave me different perspective. It made me see things a little clearer.

“And you hate to have to deal with something like that for you to see that, but life lessons are always learned in different forms and different ways, so I took it for what it was. I feel like it was something to tell me, ‘Hey, pump your brakes.’ But it was hard because it was dealing with a brother. Not only a teammate and a friend, it was a brother. I feel like our bond had grown.”

“You heard so much about the kid when he was at [Miami],” Moss said. “I remember going back home in those offseasons and walking through those training rooms, and the weight room working out with the guys and seeing my younger brother [Sinorice Moss] there at the time. And Sean was there, and you heard so much stories from him and the other guys that you played with.

“And then to finally come here a year after he got drafted here, and for some odd reason, we sat next to each other on every trip, and we sat next to each other in every big team meeting room. And I’m like, did they put this together for a reason? So I instantly had a chance to just talk with him all the time, and he was a guy that a lot of people found quiet and wouldn’t say much, but he would go out of his way to say stuff to me, because I was the guy that would leave you alone and not really say much to you if you’re not in that mood.”

“And, sharing so many stories about life and about the game, and about things that he wanted to do in his life, that’s why it’s so hard,” he said. “And that’s why I took it as hard as I did, because here you go have a kid that has everything. It’s clear to him what he wants to do. It’s clear to him what people see him as — he don’t care. It’s clear to him what he wants, and how he wants and how he’s gonna get it, and then it’s snuffed away and it’s taken away by him trying to protect his. That’s why he meant so much to me and I took it so hard. But like I said earlier, now I just look back at all the good times, because there’s so many great memories and I would never let the crap outweigh the good times.”

Michael Wilbon fielded intense scrutiny for a column he penned the day after Taylor’s death. In it, Wilbon stated he “wasn’t surprised in the least when I heard the news Monday morning that Sean Taylor had been shot in his home by an intruder. Angry? Yes. Surprised? Not even a little.”

It was only in June 2006 that Taylor, originally charged with a felony, pleaded no contest to assault and battery charges after brandishing a gun during a battle over who took his all-terrain vehicles in Florida. After that, an angry crew pulled up on Taylor and his boys and pumped at least 15 bullets into his sport-utility vehicle. So why would anybody be surprised? Had it been Shawn Springs, I would have been stunned. But not Sean Taylor.

It wasn’t long after avoiding jail time and holding on to his football career that Taylor essentially said, “That’s it, I’m out,” to the world of glamorized violence he seemed comfortable negotiating earlier. Anybody you talk to, from Coach Joe Gibbs to Jeremy Shockey, his college teammate, will cite chapter and verse as to how Taylor was changing his life in obvious ways every day. He had a daughter he took everywhere. Gibbs said he attended team chapel services regularly. Everybody saw a difference, yet it didn’t help him avoid a violent, fatal, tragic end.

Coincidence? We have no idea, not yet anyway. Could have been a random act, a break-in, something that happens every day in America, something that could happen to any one of us no matter how safe we think our neighborhood is. Could have been just that. But would it surprise me if it was more than that, if there was a distinct reason Taylor was sleeping with a machete under his bed? A machete. Even though his attorney and friend Richard Sharpstein says his instincts tell him “this was not a murder or a hit,” would it stun me if Taylor was specifically targeted? Not one bit.

When asked if he feels like Taylor’s death caused him to rethink how he protects himself, Moss shed some light on why Taylor was sleeping with a machete underneath his bed.

“The only way I can look at the situation and say his death could’ve been prevented is if he wasn’t labeled who he was labeled earlier because of an incident of someone stealing his ATV,” said Moss, “and then he couldn’t carry a firearm.”

“Dealing what he dealt with earlier in his career, with someone breaking into his property and stealing his ATV, and then he went out and got it [back],” he said. “Instead of just saying, ‘Okay. He was right by going to get it the way he got it,’ they ruled him as, ‘Okay. This is a felony.’ And then, ‘You can’t carry a firearm. You can’t protect your home with a firearm.’

Taylor — with his baby girl and its mother in the home — kept a machete because he could no longer, legally, keep a gun.

Moss pointed to a verse from rapper T.I. to shade his next point.

“He said it in one of his songs, man,” said Moss. “That’s the only way he could have prevented that. Because, one thing people fail to realize is that, true, we’re these athletes with a lot of money now. But we still have some of the same people around us. And even though we move out of the hood, we move not that far, so those guys from those areas that know someone that know you can always easily find you. So we have to be protected.”

“We have to almost be paranoid just to be able to live our life, because we don’t know if these guys who are liking us, loving us and buddying us up really want what we have or are trying to take what we have,” he said. “It’s just crazy.”

“Me personally, when that happened, and just knowing that he couldn’t carry… I have a lot,” Moss said of his gun collection. “I don’t walk around with guns because I need to, I have ’em because I know that I don’t want no one taking nothing from me. And if you’re coming on my property, in my property, then you’re crazy enough to get seen by one of these. You know what I mean?”

Follow @ChrisLingebach and @1067TheFan on Twitter

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