The ‘U’ must be partly to blame for Taylor’s death

This article has been corrected. You may view this article’s correction here.

I wanted Winslow.

I remember the 2004 NFL draft. Joe Gibbs took control of my Washington Redskins and needed a tight end like those who fueled Washington’s offenses during his three Super Bowl victories. Kellen Winslow Jr. out of Miami seemed like the perfect fit. Instead we took Sean Taylor — a loose-cannon safety and teammate of Winslow.

I saw the future. I could see Taylor threatening someone with a pistol over an all-terrain vehicle. I could see Taylor skipping a mandatory rookie symposium. I saw Taylor ejected from a crucial playoff game, leaving a hole in his team’s secondary, because he felt like spitting at an opposing player. The environment at the University of Miami taught players how to get into trouble, and Taylor was good at it.

I did not, however, see this one coming. I, like the rest of the sports world, thought of Sean Taylor as an individual who was maturing. He was a new father playing with discipline on the field.

Sean Taylor was a good person whose death was nothing but tragic. I believe that.

But it seems his murder may have been the result of some wrongdoing on Taylor’s part — even his lifelong friend, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Antrel Rolle, said as much yesterday. Why else wouldn’t Taylor have called the police when someone broke into his house and left a knife on his pillow a week ago? Why else would he sleep with a machete under his bed? It appears Sean Taylor’s attacker may have had a reason to target him.

So why do good people do bad things? Their environment. While Taylor’s death is mostly the fault of those who murdered him, blame resides elsewhere as well.

To start the blame trail, look at my hoped-for selection in the 2004 draft, fellow Hurricane Winslow, who now plays for the Cleveland Browns. When he wanted to be a “badass” and pull tricks on his motorcycle in a parking lot, Winslow crashed and tore his ACL, keeping him off the field for a year and leaving him with cartilage damage that still keeps him from playing at full speed. Winslow learned how to be rebellious and how to crash motorcycles in the same place where Taylor learned how to threaten people with pistols, as he did in 2005 when Taylor believed someone had stolen his all-terrain vehicle.

Miami is a football factory. Much of its success during the 1980s came as a result of a rebellious mentality — head coach Jimmy Johnson ordered his team to show up to the national championship Fiesta Bowl in 1987 wearing army fatigues. The team cared about big hits more than winning, which helped them win.

But the ’Canes lost their way. They went from warriors to thugs. Their players now retain the “me first” mentality without the winning tradition. They transfer their rebellious passions into their personal lives.

The results have been tragic. Winslow almost died. Taylor died. Defensive lineman Bryan Pata was murdered last year.

While Taylor’s college experience may have conditioned him to be rebellious, the Redskins could have changed him. I know it sounds unreasonable to say that teams should be involved enough in the personal lives of their players to keep them out of trouble, but it’s not.

There are two teams that pursue players who are also upstanding citizens and have an uncanny ability to remove “attitude problems” from players who bring baggage to the team. Both teams are pretty good at winning, too.

The Indianapolis Colts pride themselves on their players’ characters. Leaders like Dwight Freeney, Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison show teammates how to behave as professionals. The team operates like a machine, and none of the players steps out of line.

The New England Patriots, on the other hand, use their role models to keep problem players in line. Over the off-season the Pats acquired receiver Randy Moss, thought by many to be more pest than asset at this stage in his career. They drafted safety Brandon Meriweather, who, while at the University of Miami, bashed an Florida International University player with his helmet. Somehow both have behaved admirably in New England.

Maybe these teams are simply lucky. Maybe they instill a sense of pride in their players that keeps them out of dangerous situations. These teams do something right, and other teams around the NFL (that’s you, Cincinnati) should take a lesson. And so should NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Goodell could do more to avert tragedies like the one this week. He recognized that the league has problems with players who break the law and has sought to address them. But he addressed the effects by punishing players after mistakes instead of trying to find the source of the problem first.

By suspending players who commit crimes, Goodell only deprives players of their right to work and inspires a fear of police reports. He does not prevent players from committing crimes.

Sean Taylor may well have been doing something illegal or, at the least, wrong. Would he have gone to the police when the kitchen knife was left on his bed last week if he had not feared an investigation by the police and a suspension from the NFL? Maybe. Maybe not. But the code of conduct policy didn’t help Sean Taylor.

Very little helped Sean Taylor. Very few attempted to mentor him and guide him in the right direction. But with some change in officials’ behavior at every level of football, we may be able to limit the list of NFL players murdered in this decade to just Darrent Williams and Sean Taylor. We can’t save them, but there is hope for the future — if people are willing to change.

Collin Gutman is a sophomore in Pierson College.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    So has any Yale grad or student ever gotten in trouble? Killed someone? Been killed? If so, was it the environment in New Haven that caused it? I really expected more substance from a Yale student. Instead we're partially blaming the school for Taylor's death??? Have you ever even been to Miami??? By the way, while at UM, Kellen Winslow went on a highly-publicized rant about being a 'soldier'. Then he sits out a season after wrecking his motorcycle. So how was Taylor the loose cannon?

  • Anonymous

    I'm sorry that i Waisted five minutes of my life to read this crap. You dont know what your talking about. How in the world did this stupid idiology make it onto the internet much less, the Yale daily news??? If you really want to be a journalist, do youself a favor and give us factual news, not your sensless opinion. Oh… you must be the janator at yale…. Roger Goodell cares more deeply for the NFL organization than you'll ever know. His first question to all discaplined players is. "What can the NFL do to help you" That's Fact!! Go back to the drawing board school boy.

  • Anonymous

    So if the "U" is responsible for Taylor's death. What do you say about “Pierson College” nurturing racial discrimination? ‘Homophobic’ graffiti found on University Theatre wall
    http://www.yaledailynews.com/articles/view/22395

  • Anonymous

    How can the environment of the University of Miami be partyly to blame? Does this Yale student realize that UM is a small, private school in the middle of a upper-class neighborhood-one of the safest in the country? How ignorant is the auther of this article? This is so rediculous. Yale and UM probably have very similar demographics. Miami is NOT Thug U. It is a highly respected, acedemic institution.

  • Anonymous

    that is un real, there is no way that story is even relavent to the death of Taylor

    thats just some preppy boy's opinion of miami football, because everything that happens in the miami football program is published because of the dominance the program has had, other schools have many other problems that dont make sportscenter, miami is just an easy target for people and they jump all over it….

    there is no way the death is related to Taylor playin at Miami

  • Anonymous

    This cocky little wannabe think he know what the deal about Hurricane football be, but he don't at all. we play together and die together bro…get a clue. you think u be tough, leave the man alone. so u be sayin that if joe montanya died it would be noter dame's fault. man u trippin.

  • Anonymous

    i cant believe you would ever think about writing something like that. i personally know people at the university of miami and have been there many times and it is nothing like that. In fact the environment there is very similar and maybe even less violent then your high school walt whitman. do you think that the whitman environment was responsible for our football players getting in some trouble. if that is the case how come you havent gone off on some crazy rampage or something because of the whitman environment.

  • Anonymous

    I think this article is very well written and gutsy. The newspapers have all been writing the same pap for days. This article is refreshing and seems accurate. You have a good point and different point of view, which happens to agree,by the way, with Taylors roommate.

  • Anonymous

    WOW!!!!!! A sophomore attending school in Connecticut is somehow going to give an insight to the University of Miami. Once again the University of Miami is the bad guy. I know your young and your research, I imagine, was probably minimal at best, but what gives you the credibility to assert that The U is to blame for any part of Sean Taylor’s (RIP) tragic death? The University of Miami is a beautiful private institution located in the heart of Coral Gables, Florida, a $70,000 median income neighborhood. The school itself ranks in the top tier among U.S. colleges in various academic programs. Having seen the campus, as I assume you have not, it takes only a moment to realize how different the atmosphere is compared to the gun toting, drug selling fight club you describe in your article.

    Now if I can briefly touch on the football side of things. You will get no argument from me concerning the attitude of Miami players during the decade of dominance, although Penn State and Notre Dame “The Good Guys”, have more documented legal issues than Miami during that time and now, but to continue to believe the program is still that way is the belief of someone who is clearly ill-informed, or should I say someone attending school no where near Miami. What’s ironic about Sean Taylor is that he didn’t get in any trouble at Miami, nor did Kellen Winslow. As a matter of fact trouble didn’t occur until after both players left Miami. Graduation rates have been their highest ever amongst the football team, along with the overall academic achievements.

    So what’s the problem if it’s not the U? Its society and the me first attitude it instills, not Miami. How come when something happens at Miami it’s always blown into a much larger issue? I did not hear you complain when former Ohio State players admitted to receiving money from boosters. (How did Maurice Clarett turn out again? He had some issue with guns right?) Or where’s the article concerning Penn State’s atmosphere and how their running back is facing rape charges? Or How about the atmosphere at Illinois, where two players are facing felony charges for stealing over $20,000 worth of stuff from the school dorms. How about Virginia Tech, remember the Vick brothers? Are you getting my point? Bad things happen at every school. As a matter of fact your Ivy League schools usually lead the college rankings in Rape and Racial incidents.

    What you don’t understand stuffed in your cozy New England residency is that people are envious, especially of Miami players here in Miami. The fact of the matter is a lot of these kids grew up in areas your mommy and daddy didn’t tell you about. The type of areas you and your buddies think about driving through on a boring Saturday night to get a rush. When they become successful, as in Sean Taylor’s case, they have trouble not leaving the lifestyle behind but the friends who lead the lifestyle behind. The sad thing is, Sean Taylor was probably killed by some jealous ex-friend who didn’t appreciate Sean growing up without him, and he handled it in a horribly wrong way, but most likely the only way he knew how. And you know what, I’m sure he didn’t attend the University of Miami. RIP SEAN TAYLOR – GOD, FAMILY, CANES!!!

  • Anonymous

    To 1:53 PM, assuming that violence cannot occur in a "small, private school in the middle of a upper-class neighborhood" is presumptious and an incorrect assertion.

  • Anonymous

    Get your facts straight if you want to be a journalist.

    "But it seems his murder may have been the result of some wrongdoing on Taylor’s part — even his lifelong friend, Arizona Cardinals cornerback Antrel Rolle, said as much yesterday. Why else wouldn’t Taylor have called the police when someone broke into his house and left a knife on his pillow a week ago?"

    Both sentences are completely false. If you actually read Rolle's quote and not the headline you would understand that he was saying Sean was a target not because he did anything wrong but because of who he was. Here is Rolle's quote taken directly from the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel and AP, "They say it was a burglary," Rolle said. "It absolutely was not a burglary. Down South, where we're from, there were many people talking to Sean, a lot of jealousy, a lot of angry people. Sean, he had a large group of friends, and he no longer hung out with those friends, so you never know where this came from."

    Second, Sean did in fact make a police report about the first burglary in which the knife was left in his bedroom. Here is a quote from CNN, " Taylor's home also was reported burglarized on November 18, according to Miami-Dade police. During that incident, someone forced open a window and left a kitchen knife on a bed, according to a police report. Several drawers and a bedroom safe had been searched during the break-in, the report said..According to the police report, Taylor's mother reported the break-in, saying it occurred while the house was empty. Police found a window pried open, but could not confirm if anything was missing."

    What does that say? "According to the police report." So get your facts straight before you write an article bashing Sean Taylor and the University of Miami. Oh, and by the way, where did Ben Roethlisberger, who crashed his motorcycle, learn to be rebellious?

    And what does Bryan Pata's murder have to do with the University of Miami. He was killed off campus, by an unknown assailant. He, like Sean, was the victim of a murder. There is no connection to the university so stopping hating the University of Miami.

    And please don't go into journalism when and if you graduate. You won't last long.

  • Anonymous

    As a UM alumni and JD candidate for May, I am appalled at the contents of this column and the fact that a student at such a distinguished institute of higher learning can make such asinine statments. It reflects exactly the kind of false thinking and information that is spread throughout the media regarding UM and its football team. Was any research whatsoever done prior to writing this because from its contents it doesn't appear like there was.

    From the beginning your facts are wrong and you make false assertions from those incorrect facts. The fact that you classified Sean Taylor as the "loose cannon" and Kellen Winslow as the upstanding citizen shows that you did not prepare for your column and instead just decided to write on the hot topic of the day. Anyone who knows anything about UM football knows that while at UM Kellen Winslow was involved in much more controversy than Sean Taylor was and if anyone was to be classified a loose cannon it would of been Winslow (I wouldn't agree with it but you can at least make the argument). Sean was never in any trouble or controversy while at UM he just dominated on the field and kept quiet and to himself off it. Yes he made mistakes after he left UM but what young man doesn't make mistakes and by all accounts he had matured beyond everything since the birth of his daughter.

    Also, UM players are no more likely to get into trouble off the field than players at any other football program. In fact over the last 10 years UM has actually had less off field incidents involving players than most schools. The facts and information are there, all you have to do is look it up. The UM campus is not a place where incidents of violence are a regular way of life as you seem to believe. As many of the previous comments have addressed it is actually a beautiful campus that has more of a country club feel to it then the prison yard picture you paint in your writing. The biggest incident that might happen every year is someone's laptop being stolen from their dorm while they were in class. All of the incidences that do occur, like Sean's and Bryan Pata last year, happen off campus. And it's not like these guys were out in a club looking for trouble. Pata was on his was into his apartment from practice and Taylor was in bed in his home sleeping with his soon to be wife and their daughter. They were attacked by people that had nothing to do with the university of the team.

    In my years I've had the privilege to interact with many UM football players since high school and through my time on campus, including Sean Taylor. From playing sports with them, to hanging out with them, playing poker, to being invited into their homes they have all showed me nothing but class and respect and were down to earth and outgoing. In no instance has any of them given me any impression that they thought they were better than anyone or had to prove anything. All that stuff you guys see on TV is an on field persona these guys have to get in the other team's head, it's not who they are. To them every player that plays at the U is family and it's that family atmosphere that makes them leaders on their teams when they get to the NFL and to the players that replace them after they move on. Look around the league and you'll see UM players as captains of their teams and team MVP's.

    Remember this one thing if you read nothing else from this comment. The man who died this week was a loved son, father, brother, soon to be husband and friend to many. Think about that before you write an article saying pretty much that he got what he deserved. No man deserves to die like that. At 24 with his whole life ahead of him. Now a little girl will grow up without a father and the UM players all feel like they lost a brother.

  • Anonymous

    Read the column before you trash it, whoever all these anonymous posters are. Winslow is clearly not the "upstanding citizen," but rather another example of a Miami player who did wrong.

    Roethlisberger did crash his motorcycle, and yes people at other schools have done wrong, but the author is merely trying to say that Miami has a history of incidents with its players.

    And if the UM campus is not a place where violence occurs, why does all this violence surround the football team?

    The author was not trashing Sean Taylor. The author was clearly eulogizing him in a way that wasn't sappy, by saying that there are certain factors that are endangering football players and they need to change.

    You can let your sadness over Taylor cloud judgment. I am sad too, but I feel like there needs to be real change or he won't be the last, and the author is gutsy for pointing this out in the face of all of your closed-minded criticism.

  • Anonymous

    This column is trash. Upon reading all the inaccuracies, this is abundantly clear. The author states that he didn't call the cops, when he did. The author misquotes Antrell Rolle, who merely stated he felt Taylor was targeted. He was--for a burglary.

    If your house was broken into a week earlier, you might keep a weapon in your bedroom for protection. He had machete that he used for yard work so he used that.

    This column is an example of the author making a conclusion and then misrepresenting or changing facts to fit that conclusion. Hmm….sounds familiar. He may have a future in politics, as journalism is not working out so well.

  • Anonymous

    Is there a follow-up w/ an apology to the Taylor family and Miami? I'm guessing not, but please go into more detail about how the univ. is partly responsible and how your journalism is completely irresponsible

  • Anonymous

    To the (also) anonymous poster at 2:17 December 1st, did you read the article? I did, and found it to be completely inaccurate, as I pointed out. The author used the inaccurate information to bolster his sham of an argument. And I disagree with you, the author was trashing Taylor, Winslow, and the University of Miami. The only factor, by the way, that was endangering Sean Taylor was the fact that he made a lot of money and people knew that.

  • Anonymous

    Funny how he mentions Harrison who was arrested at pro bowl as a high character Colt but leaves out UMs Reggie Wayne. Also Merriwether didnt swing any helmets during the brawl that was Reddick. The author really is irresponsible.

  • Anonymous

    Still in school and wet behind the ears living 2000 miles away yet you know sooooooooo much about the University of Miami and it's football team. You should go write for ESPN, your Miami bashing would fit right in over there.

  • Anonymous

    Can i please have the 5 min of my life back that i just wasted reading this disgusting piece of misinformation?

  • Anonymous

    To say that this aspiring journalist has any future in the field is coming to a ludicrous assertion.

    Do yourself a favor Collin, research your information prior to publishing it. The only thing that has been established here as fact is the lack of true journalism with the inaccuracies in facts, quotes and overall content.

    You sir are a contributor to that growing problem in the media today. Your inaccuracies points to your lack of integrity which only illustrates your need to find a different major or to reevaluate your commitment to this honorable profession.

    If your gonna do this, then do it right!

    GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT!

  • Anonymous

    As a UM student, I didn't agree with what the author said, but the comments under the article revealed more about my university than the actual article. Who are these people searching for "true journalism" in the editorial section of a college newspaper? Last year UM's newspaper had an article about the abundance of bird poop on campus, and nobody wrote in to ridicule the lack of insight. People who are upset about the article, make sure you actually read it and understand it before flipping out. Otherwise when you complain you make the University of Miami (or whatever school you did attend) look as bad as Kellen Winslow

  • Anonymous

    As a student at a university that has given us a President who has had thousands of American kids (not to mention many more innocent Iraqis) needlessly killed for his arrogant pleasure, I would think you would be a little more circumspect about what is going on at YOUR university than anywhere else. I guess you rich, spoiled brats are all alike: Holier than thou and clueless about everything outside of your sheltered, coddled, and privileged world. Throw yourself on the ground, pound your fists, and hold your breath until you turn blue…just like L'il Georgy did today when Congress didn't give him what he wanted.

    Our United States of America has been reduced to a pariah state by your kind. Clean up your own backyard before you decide to defecate in someone else's, your obnoxious little prick!

  • Anonymous

    Nobody has come here to look for "true journalism" but when you tell hurtful lies about something you in a public forum you're going to respond. I'm sure nobody reputations were damaged with the "bird poop" story

  • Anonymous

    This is a horrible article. It is obvious that the author, Collin Gutman, did no research whatsoever. Collin, you should be embarassed.

  • Anonymous

    This piece is full of inaccuracies and rush-to-judgment comments that are so typical of an outsiders' view of the U. I have lived in South Florida for a number of years, and it never ceases to amaze me that people who never spent anytime there (other than visiting the beach occasionally) feel perfectly qualified to pass judgemnt.

    As far as this article, specifically, I find it interesting that in the discussion of the Indianapolis Colts, the author curiously left Reggie Wayne out of the discussion -- he's a Cane and a great wide receiver. In discussion of the Patriots' Brandon Merriweather, he left out discussion of Vince Wilfork -- a great person and a Cane. He also left out discussion of the large number of NFL players who are Canes and who are production, positive members of their teams -- Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee and the Moss brothers come to mind immediately.

    He also neglected to mention that the U has not had nearly the off the field problems that other Div I schools have had recently. Part of being a journalist is doing research and confirming information -- even if you write an opinion piece, you need to vet your facts.

  • Anonymous

    You lost any credibility when you made the statement "Winslow learned how to be rebellious and how to crash motorcycles in the same place where Taylor learned how to threaten people with pistols". It was Winslow, not Taylor that entered the draft with "baggage". If you listened to the senior Kellen Winslow talk about his son (The Chosen One as he so affectionately calls him) you would easily see "the environment which teaches players how to get into trouble".

    Hindsight is always 20/20, but there is NOTHING in Taylor's time at Miami that suggests a future of "threatening someone with a pistol, skipping a mandatory rookie symposium, or being ejected from a crucial playoff game". You are trying to make connections that just aren't there. To top it off, your example of the Colts players is laughable considering you conveniently leave off Reggie Wayne, and even former teammate Edgerrin James, both from Miami, who have been equally important in building that team. In fact, the Colts believed so much in Edge’s abilities and character they took him ahead of the Heisman winner and all time NCAA leading rusher.

    In addition, are you aware that in the last decade the University of Miami’s football program has produced 3 finalists for the Draddy award including the 2001 recipient, Hurricane and coincidentally former Indianapolis Colt, Joaquin Gonzalez? The award is commonly referred to as the “Academic Heisman” and is given to the nation’s top scholar-athlete. That hardly sounds like “the University of Miami taught players how to get into trouble”.

    Before you start using the unfortunate death of Sean Taylor to condemn the University of Miami, do a little research. For starters, here is a list of NFL players that were arrested in 2006: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/sports/nfl/longterm/2006/nfl_chart_12162006.html

    See any Hurricanes? Given the fact that there are more active NFL players from the University of Miami than from any other institution doesn’t it seem likely that at least one of them would be on the list? Still, they’re not. Looks like you have a few more schools to write about being “partly to blame”.

  • Anonymous

    Outrageous! Blame the victim huh? What happened to this guy was indeed tragic, and no one deserves to die in the manner that he did irrespective of any perceived past "wrong-doing". You need to check yourself.

  • Anonymous

    ALong with ALL the other inaccuracies listed, I would like to also add that when the UM players showed up for the Fiesta Bowl dressed in camo, the entire coaching staff, including Jimmy Johnson, was already in Tempe, AZ. They had NO knowledge of the players doing that until they arrived. The coaching staff did not, in fact, order the team to dress in camo. NO RESEARCH!

  • Anonymous

    Tidbits. That's what we have in this article. Tidbits of truth, layered by volumes of opinion molded over years of misconception and half truths & misinformation. Collin, hopefully this will serve you in good stead to learn and grow. Don't conform to what the majority opinion is or sway with the prevailing winds of opinion because it is expediant. Do your research. There is so much more value in the truth, the real truth and not simply writing what you know others are likely to agree with. The University of Miami is a lovely place. A magnificant institution of MUCH higher learning. The Football team graduation rate is is honored on a yearly basis. As an example, the University of Florida football team has had 16 arrests either on Campus or in the surrounding neighborhoods since 01/01/07 alone. Miami has had 1 since 1990. Please don't fall into the trap. Do your research. Be different.

  • Anonymous

    you know nothing about the Miami football program, you just keep the media portrayed thug image rolling. In the last 5 years look at the amount arrests at UM vs Florida, FSU, Texas, USC, Ohio State, Tennessee, etc and you will find that the past labels put on this team are not the case anymore. Sean Taylor and Brian Pata were victims of society that doesn't appreciate a human life. This could of happened anywhere. You are ignorant.

  • Anonymous

    While some people may be taking pot shots at the author of this provocative article, and perhaps there are some facts that are inaccurate, the point of the article is a good one. Not just as it relates to the University of Miami, but to other universities as well. Many universities have taken a lax view about their athelete/students and have chosen to ignore past troubles and image issues for the sake of the victory on the grid iron. The newspapers are replete with stories. The universities should be breeding grounds for future good citizens, not endorsing thug like activities. And certainly, while not alone, no one can argue against the fact that the University of Miami has had more than its fair share of thug-like football players who have been encouraged to behave in ways that should make parents cringe. Maybe the University of Miami is changing. Let's hope so and hope that it can be an example to other schools. I wonder if there is a correlation between the University of Miami's efforts and its recent record on the football field. If so, then I applaud the university for doing the right thing.

  • Anonymous

    To anonymous Dec. 10 3:35. What you say is true if in fact the University of Miami were doing that. Go ahead and do your research and look at the last time any player did something wrong and no punishment was handed out. Look at the arrest record at UM. Look at players "acting" up and being handed a free pass. The problem with your comment, and with this aurthor, is that you continue to follow the image that the media loves to hold unto. It's because it's easy. If you did your research, you would see that UM has actually been one of the best schools in not allowing thuggish behaviour. Unfortunately, researching would take too much time, so people like you and this author continue to spout these ridiculous assumptions. Absolutely in poor taste.

    To the author, I see what you're trying to say, but I think it would be wise to find a better example than to use Taylor and Miami. You want schools that don't shape up these players into men? Look at OSU and Clarett, look at Reggie Bush and USC. Just pick any player from UF, Texas, Alabama, etc. Stop looking at Miami! The truth is, in the last 15 years we haven't had as many arrests as 95% of Div 1 schools in the last 5 years.