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Ryan Clark Remembers His Friend

Ryan Clark was probably Sean Taylor's closest friend during their two years together on the Washington Redskins (2004-2005). Sean made 53 NFL starts - 22 of them were with Clark by his side (rookie LaRon Landry has the second-most starts with Sean, just 9). Numerous Redskins teammates said that Clark was a calming, soothing influence on Taylor, and a devout Christian who played a role in Sean becoming more interested in his faith.

Clark helped Sean with in-game adjustments, was the player who reached out to him the most and the player who got through to him the most. When Clark was allowed to depart in free agency in March 2006, most Redskins veterans took it as a massive blow to team chemistry, and when Taylor struggled with new partner Adam Archuleta in 2006, some said privately that Taylor was brooding over the loss of his friend. (Taylor downplayed the importance of Clark to his development during training camp, when Sean made his only real public comments of the season, but a bevy of current and former teammates believe Clark was a tremendous positive force in his life. "I don't think anybody in the NFL is tied to each other," Taylor said at the time)

Before Sean's daughter was born, he would spend nights playing video games with Clark's kids. Sean's fiancée, Jackie, became close with Clark's wife. Taylor ate meals at Clark's house, and began to make positive changes in his life. And this morning, a friend of Taylor's fiancée called the Clarks - who now reside in Pittsburgh with Ryan a safety for the Steelers - to tell them their friend was dead.

Clark had missed a few phone calls very early in the morning from former Redskin Antonio Pierce, now a standout linebacker with the NY Giants, and went to bed last night fearing the worst. Three times this season he sent Taylor text messages, but never heard back, not unusual for Sean "I usually let him be during the season when we play our ball."

So their last conversation came during Pittsburgh's preseason game at FedEx Field Aug. 18..

"We talked for 30 minutes before the game, just sharing stories and laughing," Clark said on his cellphone tonight, "and it was good man, and I thank the Lord for that last opportunity to let him know how I felt about him, and he let me know how he felt about me and we moved on from there. He seemed like he'd changes a lot and matured and he was playing incredible football this year."

The Clarks reached out to Sean's fiancée and daughter today, sending their love. "We just wanted to let his girls know that we were here for them and they always can always call on us. The people you worry about - the people who really matter, are his fiancée and his daughter. Sean was a good father and good man and he basically lost his life making sure they were okay and checking on them." Ryan also spoke with several of his former coaches in Washington on the phone today, including Gregg Williams, assistant head coach - defense, safeties coach Steve Jackson and special teams coach Danny Smith.

"Every time they show something about his they show his legalities and things like that, but that's not who he was," Clark said. "it paints a picture like he lived a certain way, so he deserved to go a certain way. But he was a good man and good talent who had become a great man, and I'm said all the people want to focus on is the negative. He was a 24-year-old kid, a brother and a father who passed away.

"All you can do now is lean on your faith and I know Sean did get the opportunity to get right with God and he did get the opportunity to change his life and you have to take the approach that Sean would have taken and that's that he's moved on and he's going to be watching us all now, and if you have faith then you have to believe that he is better off there than he was here."

In my last conversation with Sean, in an impromptu group setting after that Aug. 16 practice, he did elaborate on his mindset coming into this season, one that resulted in what was clearly his best season ever.

"It's almost like we play a kid's game for a king's ransom, and if you don't take it seriously enough, one day you're going to say, 'Oh, I could have did this, or I could have did that.' " Taylor said. "I'll just say that I'm healthy right now, and I'm going into my fourth year, so why not do the best that I can? Whether it's eating right, whether it's training myself right, or whether it's studying harder. It's whatever I can do to better myself."

As I mentioned, Ryan's 22 starts alongside Sean were the most of anyone. Sean played with a vast cast in his brief career:
Of Sean's 53 starts:
22 with Ryan Clark
9 with LaRon landry
7 with Adam Archuleta
6 with Vernon Fox
3 with Pierson Prioleau
3 with Troy Vincent
3 with Matt Bowen.

By Jason La Canfora  |  November 27, 2007; 5:55 PM ET
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