JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Most pregame rituals are more or less the same: music and meditation. Seattle Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor's routine is a little different. It's a window into who he wants to be as a player, and a part of NFL lore that's been sadly lost.
Before every game, the Seahawks cornerback watches videos of the late Sean Taylor.
"The passion he showed," Chancellor said here Wednesday. "You can tell by the way he played. I wish I could have met him."
Taylor was a rare power player in the secondary – a 6-foot-2, 212-pound hitting machine at the University of Miami and then with the Washington Redskins. His hit on Buffalo punter Brian Moorman in 2007 is one of the most memorable plays in Pro Bowl history.
"He was the best athlete I ever came across in football," said former Redskin Chris Cooley. "He was also one of the most intelligent. The way he studied -- he would stay after practice to get in reps with the scout team."
Taylor was slain in his home by burglars in 2007 at age 24, and players and coaches still speak of him with reverence. There was a lot to remember about Taylor, and a lot to emulate. Chancellor is trying to do both.
"I've seen everything of his on YouTube," Chancellor said. "I got two or three full games from the Seahawks on iPad."
Chancellor is about as close as it gets to Taylor in today's NFL. Like Taylor, he's huge for the safety position (6-3, 232 pounds) and he might be the most feared hitter in the league – just like Taylor, who was named one of the game's hardest-hitting player by Sports Illustrated in 2007, the year he died. "I've modeled my game after him," Chancellor said. "He's a vicious hitter."
Chancellor's admiration for Taylor isn't just because of the thrill of impact, though. The Seahawk watches the late Redskin for form and technique. There's a science behind how Taylor hit, and it might be more relevant in today's NFL than it was when he played.
"It's how to keep your feet under you," Chancellor said. "Especially being a big safety."
The problem with being a big safety is it increases the likelihood of a helmet-to-helmet hit – and a penalty or fine. Taller tacklers often lunge at runners instead of tackling from a solid foundation. The "Legion of Boom" makes tackling form even more important, as referees know the Seahawks' reputation for heavy hitting. Along with the rugby and steer wrestling highlights, Chancellor looks to Taylor's videos as a model for leading with the shoulder and aiming for the torso: the "Region of Boom." He prides himself on tackling properly and (unlike many players and pundits) he embraces the new NFL rules.
"I've been doing pretty good with it," he said. "It protects the guy's brain. I have an opportunity to show people how to tackle."
Taylor probably never imagined the imprint he made on a player he never met – a player who is taking him to the Super Bowl in spirit. As much as Kam Chancellor is a tribute to the past, Sean Taylor is becoming a model for the game's future.
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