PHOTO GALLERY: GAME 13 vs NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

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PHOTO GALLERY: GAME 12 vs NEW YORK JETS

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PHOTO GALLERY: GAME 10 VS COWBOYS

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It Still Hurts. . .

by Eric Espada
Special for Hailmagazine.com

For the several months I have wondered what is going to be my first post on my brand new blog. I always wondered if anyone besides my Mom cared about what I had to say. I thought maybe Ill write about a cool trip I took or write about a great game I shot and add some photos. Every time I thought about it, it just didn’t seem right. But this morning was different. I woke up and I felt I needed to write something about Sean.

Im not a writer by any stretch of the imagination. I write with the photos I take and I took a lot of photos of Sean. Sean was one of my favorite Canes to photograph. Since 2002 I have been part of the Caneshooter team along with JC Ridley and since 2004 have covered the Washington Redskins.

There were lots of things I loved about Sean. I loved the variety of shields he wore to cover his eyes, whether it was the orange colored shield or the reflective shield. It gave him this Darth Vader type look and feel. I loved that you couldn’t see his eyes and all you saw was the reflection of the sky or of the Orange Bowl every time you looked at him. I also loved the crazy hairstyles that Sean had. It seemed like it changed weekly or for every game. And I loved the way he played the game. I quickly became a fan of Seans.

Four years ago today Sean Taylor passed away and to this day it still hurts. . .

Sean and I weren’t best friends, we weren’t related, but we were family. Sean and I were part of the Miami Hurricane Family. Its extremely difficult to explain to anyone what its like to be a part of the Hurricane Family. Imagine the love you have for your family and multiply it by 1000. Since I have been a part of this family I lost 6 of my Hurricane family members. Marlin Barnes, Robert Woodus, Chris Campbell, Al Baldes, Bryan Pata and Sean Taylor. Robert died in a plane crash, Chris and Al were both killed in car accidents and Marlin, Bryan and Sean were each murdered. I have lost more members of my Hurricane Family than I have of my immediate family and it hurts each time I think of them.

With Sean its a little different. I covered almost every game Sean played at the University of Miami and every game but 1 when he played for the Washington Redskins. I have always felt a weird connection to Sean. As Sean was becoming this larger than life figure on the football field, I was there from the start growing as a photographer. Sean gave me some of the best photos I have ever taken. Sean cutting in front of Larry Fitzgerald for an interception and him diving for a ball against the Arizona Cardinals are two photos that hang on my office wall. Every time I needed a big photo I knew I could count on Sean. He was a playmaker and I could see his game growing each and every time he stepped on the field.

You can see in this video that I created, what I mean about Sean and all of the big plays that he gave me throughout my photography career. There are a lot of tribute videos out there but this one is different. All of the photos taken in this video were taken by me from 2003-2007. This is a small sample of the photos I have taken of Sean but it gives you a great idea of why I loved taking photos of Sean in action.

Thank you Sean for allowing me the opportunity to capture some of the greatest plays in Hurricanes and Redskins history.

We miss you ST.
(26,36,21)

PHOTO GALLERY: GAME 5 vs EAGLES

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PHOTO GALLERY: GAME 3 at COWBOYS

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PHOTO GALLERY: GAME 2 vs CARDINALS

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PHOTO GALLERY: GAME 1 vs GIANTS

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The Dark Horse

Photo by Peter Lockley

By Brian Murphy/homermcfanboy.com

After a rocky start to his football career and a series of underwhelming win-loss records, Adam Carriker has one goal from here on out in the NFL – winning football games.

The Washington Redskins defensive end was born in Nebraska, where Cornhusker football is considered must-see television. At an early age, Carriker was drawn to the game and knew he wanted to play football, but first he had to convince his father.

“He didn’t want me to play because he said too many guys get hurt playing football,” Carriker said.

So Carriker settled for playing baseball and basketball until the seventh grade, when he finally convinced his father to let him play football. But after playing in just one game, football felt so foreign to Carriker that he was ready to give it up. Because it was so different from the other sports he had played up to that point, he had trouble finding his comfort level.

That Friday, Carriker sat down with his football coach and let him know he didn’t want to play anymore. He had made his decision and was ready to move on … until the following day when it was time, once again, for Nebraska football.

Watching his beloved Cornhuskers play again, he remembered what had drawn him to the game in the first place. With a renewed faith, Carriker sought out his coach and rejoined the team that Monday.
“I never even missed a practice,” Carriker said with a laugh. “I don’t think anyone associated with the team, other than the coach, even knew I had quit.”

Carriker became a standout player, drawing interest from a handful of big-name colleges. The only problem was Kennewick High School, in Kennewick, Wash., won a grand total of two games during his four-year career, so he wasn’t on the radar of the one college program he always dreamed of playing for: Nebraska.

Fortunately for Carriker, his high school coach knew how much the Cornhuskers meant to him, so he took it upon himself to contact the school.

Initially, recruiters told Carriker he wasn’t good enough for a scholarship. But their tune changed as soon as they saw his highlights – including a 17-tackle performance in his final high school game. Although Carriker wasn’t exactly thrilled with the lukewarm reception he was getting from Nebraska, he reluctantly agreed to visit their campus in Lincoln.

“During that recruiting trip, I saw everything I remembered from watching all those Nebraska football games growing up,” he said. “My dad was with me and I said to him, ‘Forget everything that’s happened. This is where I want to go.’”

Carriker’s collegiate career didn’t exactly get off to a picture-perfect start. He was redshirted his first year at Nebraska, meaning he was relegated to the scout team during practices and he didn’t get to play in any games. Making matter worse, the Cornhuskers went just 7-7 – which is a disaster for a powerhouse program like Nebraska.

“It was the first time in something like four or five decades that the program didn’t win at least nine games,” he said. “So the players and coaches weren’t exactly in a great mood during that time either.”
Carriker continued to work hard and by his junior year, people were starting to take notice of exactly what he was capable of on the field.

“I had four sacks in my first four games my junior year,” Carriker said. “That’s when people started coming up to me on campus asking me if I was leaving early. I didn’t even know what they meant at first. I hadn’t even really thought of the NFL at that point.”

Carriker returned to Nebraska for his senior year and he continued to impress. He played so well, in fact, that he was selected with the 13th overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams.

When he made it to the NFL though, he once again found himself dealing with a losing record. During his first two seasons in St. Louis, the Rams went just 5-27. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Carriker missed the entire ’09 season because of a shoulder injury.

This past offseason, Carriker was shipped to the Redskins for a pair of late-round draft picks. He chalks the decision to ship him off on nothing more than bad luck.

“To be honest with you, I just went through a lot of injuries,” Carriker said. “You can ask the strength coach, you can ask the trainers there in St. Louis, nobody put in more time in the weight room than me. But for some reason, I was unlucky.”

It should be pointed out that Carriker played in 31 of 32 games his first two seasons. Still, in Carriker’s words, the Rams eventually lost their patience waiting for him to be fully healthy. Once that happened, it was only a matter of time before they came up with a reason to move on without him.

“It’s kind of funny,” he said. “When I first came out, people were saying, ‘He can play anywhere. He can play nose tackle, left end, wherever.’ And when the new coach [Steve Spagnuolo] sat me down, he told me I was too slow to play left end and too tall to play inside. Like all the sudden, it became a bad thing that I could play all these different positions. It’s just funny how different people can view something.

“I’ll never forget my rookie year,” Carriker continued. “I would play nose tackle, right and left end. I would play it all. In one drive against San Francisco, I played every single position. I didn’t have a lot of time to think, but I thought I did it pretty well.”

And yet, Carriker was essentially given away for a couple draft picks – a move the Redskins were more than happy to make.

“He’s what you look for in a 3-4 defensive end,” said Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan earlier this year. “He’s big, strong, and powerful and plays his gap. I’m really happy the way he’s played and the way he’s handled himself since he has been here.”

Shanahan isn’t the only person in the organization who is happy to have Carriker on the roster. His teammates are thrilled to have him on board as well.

“I look at Adam as someone who can really help this defense,” said defensive end Phillip Daniels. “Not only that, but he’s also a guy who can help extend my career because now I’m not being asked to play so many snaps. He’s a big, physical guy and he’s someone who has come in and helped anchor that defensive line.”

As the left defensive end, Carriker is often faced with teams – particularly those with right-handed quarterbacks – running primarily to his side of the football field.

“That’s not even something we really even worry about,” said linebacker Andre Carter. “He’s so strong that he’s able to step in there and solidify our line against the run, even though he’s usually matched up against their strongest tackle.

“When you’ve got a guy that’s reliable like Adam over there, then it makes everything a little bit easier,” Carter continued. “Your heart’s not racing 100 miles an hour and the game slows down because you’re not worrying about whether or not the guy in front of you can do his job.”

Already motivated after being shipped off by the Rams and desperate to finally play for a winning team, Carriker couldn’t have been happier when he arrived at Redskins Park.

“I was really excited when I found out I was going to Washington,” he said. “You look at Shanahan. You look at [quarterback Donovan] McNabb. You look at everything else they did and I saw a team making a lot of offseason moves to get better.”

After losing so many games in high school, college and in the pros with the Rams, Carriker would like nothing more than to be on a team that gets to enjoy some success.

“I definitely feel we’re pointed in the right direction,” he said. “Especially on defense, we’re getting there. Some people want to focus on the stats, but we’re holding our own against good teams. In a lot of these games, we’ve been able to get a key turnover or someone steps up and makes a play. Obviously there’s always room for improvement, but I really feel like we’re playing pretty well.”