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Alas, only the valiant taste death but once
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On Monday, I was blessed to have celebrated my 37th birthday.

But I didn't do anything on that particular day except reflect on the life of the late Washington Redskins defensive back, Sean Taylor, who died last week from a gunshot wound during a robbery at his home in Florida.

He was only 24 years old.

No doubt you've already heard this news, but what captured my attention was how Washington chose to honor him.

As I watched the game between the Redskins/Bills last Sunday, I was moved by how Washington started its defensive unit with just 10 men on the field during the very beginning play of the first quarter.

The 11th man who was missing was Taylor - a moving tribute to such a fine talent.

Each time I watched a different game on the tube that day I saw every player throughout the league wear No. 21 on the back of their helmets. I watched as the NFL network showed different stadiums throughout the country display banners by fans remembering the legacy of the real No. 21.

That right there proved how much Taylor meant to not only the fans but to the entire league. This was a man who was in the primal stages of becoming a superstar in America's greatest sport.

Yet, his life was taken prematurely by a band of hoodlums who showed no regard for anything other than their selfish and cruel intentions.

As the week dragged on, I heard many theories regarding what really happened, who was there and who did what. But quite honestly I don't care - Sean Taylor died for nothing at the hands of a senseless act of violence.

Taylor loved what he did, and was doing what the average man only dreams about after a long day's work. He played the game so that he could take care of his family, and represented everything the NFL stands for today.

The death of Taylor has truly changed my position on life. I realize that you have to live every single day as if it is your last - you must never take the very things that are wholesome in your life for granted.

Taylor played college ball at the University of Miami (Fla.) before the Redskins drafted him in the first round (fifth overall) in 2004. In only four seasons as a free safety, he recorded 344 tackles (245 solo), 12 interceptions, 41 pass deflections and four forced fumbles. He was also voted to his only Pro Bowl appearance in 2006.

To be honest, I would not want Taylor to be remembered as just another typical professional athlete who was killed by a bunch of thugs. Instead, I would like for him to be remembered as a man who was blessed with an abundance of talent, taken from us too soon.

It leads me to wonder when and if young men and women will ever stop believing that tomorrow is a promise.

Too many athletes this year alone have lost their lives based on one incident or another, which doesn't make any sense at all to me.

Although I never met Sean Taylor, I sense that he was a very humble and quiet person who tried to not attract a lot of attention. But without question he was loved and respected by many in the league.

So, last Monday I didn't feel like eating cake and ice cream on my birthday.

Instead, I spent the day under a tree eating peaches and grapes thinking about a man who no longer exists, one who has given me a gift through his tragic death. Now my birthday has more meaning than ever before.

And that is the greatest gift anyone could ask for.

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