Under his game jersey, Redskins running back Clinton Portis, 27, always wears a T-shirt honoring his late teammate, safety Sean Taylor. Powered by his friend's memory, Portis is on pace for one of his best seasons ever—and resolute that fear won't control his life when he steps off the field.
Right now, who is better to target than an athlete? Bankers are losing jobs. Real estate gurus are losing jobs. Wall Street is losing jobs. Lots of people getting humble, but an athlete's money is constant.
I know a lot of players who think, Oh, man they ain't gonna get me. I watch where I'm going. No one's sneaking up on me. I say to them, Anybody can be touched. If somebody wants to get to you, there ain't no limits. Sean was home with his family, and they got to him.
But even with what happened, I can't walk around in fear. Out of fear your reaction is going to be totally different. If I don't know you and you walk up on me too fast, do I shoot first and ask questions later? Because I'm living in fear? You could be running to tell me my car lights are on. It's tricky, though. When you put on that uniform, you have to be fearless—and it's hard to turn off. A banker in Sean's position would've probably just called the police that night. But as an athlete, Sean's reaction was embedded in him.
I don't think the NFL is ever going to be the same. It's less fun now. Everything's a worry, on and off the field. People feel like you are obligated to them. I was at a charity event the other night and I had a man come up to me and grab me, hard, as if we were close friends. It was one of those hard grabs, around the neck, the way people who don't know you shouldn't touch you. So I turned around looking at him like, uh, do I know you? And his response was "I pay your salary, I'm a season ticket holder." Now, what do season tickets cost? Twenty thousand dollars? Pay my salary? Man, I don't make $20,000.
I worked hard for what I got. This life wasn't given to me. It wasn't eenie, meanie, miney, mo: I win. I've been fighting for what I got my whole life and it was hard work. I've seen everything. I've lost family members. I've held an AK-47, I've held assault rifles. I've seen crack sitting beside me. I've seen cocaine sitting beside me. But I stayed clean and found a way to steer myself away from all that. People are upset with me because I'm successful? You should try being successful too.
But remembering Sean gives me a power, a will to fight through. Earlier this season against the Steelers, we're down 23-6, and the game's kinda over with, and I'm just in there for blitz pickup to knock heads with a linebacker. But I'm still fighting, looking for someone to punish. It's that kinda toughness. That's what I get from thinking of Sean.