For as long as the Washington Football Team exists, no other player will ever wear No. 21.
The team announced Thursday that it will be retiring the jersey number that belonged to the late Sean Taylor, the two-time Pro Bowl safety who was one of the bright young stars of the league before he was murdered in 2007 at the age of 24.
Taylor’s jersey will be retired Sunday afternoon when Washington hosts the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I came into the NFL the same year as Sean Taylor and immediately his athletic ability, resilience, grit, and relentless work ethic set him apart,” Washington Football Team President Jason Wright said Thursday in a statement. “I and many others looked to him as a role model. The fact that he was tragically taken so early hurt our player community, but also our fans, coaches, and staff. We will continue to remember him and hold him up as an example of professionalism and excellence, and we will all strive to mirror his excellence in our own ways.”
The event will coincide with the franchise’s alumni homecoming weekend, during which nearly 100 former players will be on hand. Taylor’s number will be retired during a pre-game ceremony, marking only the third time the franchise has retired a number.
The team apologized for the short notice on the ceremony, which it said had been in the works for some time.
“We have been planning this weekend’s tribute to Sean Taylor since before the start of the season in partnership with Sean Taylor’s family and as part of our Alumni weekend activities,” the team said in a statement. “We are looking forward to rededicate Sean Taylor Road with Sean Taylor’s friends, family and team alumni and are excited to officially retire his jersey during the game with our fans and alumni present as part of our Alumni Homecoming Weekend activities. We apologize to fans who would have liked more notice and will continue to share with fans ways we will be celebrating Sean Taylor’s legacy over the next month.”
A limited number of fans who attend will receive Sean Taylor rally towels that are designed from the ones the franchise handed out after his murder. Players will also wear helmet decals with Taylor’s No. 21 and coaches and staff will wear lapel pins with Taylor’s number.
This marks another tribute paid to Taylor in a little more than a year. The Washington Football Team in 2020 renamed a road leading to its FedEx Field stadium Sean Taylor Road.
Taylor played in the NFL from 2004-07, all with Washington, earning Pro Bowl honors in his last two seasons. He finished with 305 tackles, 12 interceptions, eight forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one touchdown. The year after his death, Taylor was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor.
Taylor wore the jersey No. 36 during his rookie season, but changed it to No. 21 the following year.
He was the fifth overall selection in the 2004 NFL draft, out of the University of Miami.