Thank You, Washington

Aaron M. Sprecher via AP

Before I got the call to come to Washington a few years ago, I thought I was pretty much done playing football.

Covid was just starting to take hold, and I was in the XFL, with no real job prospects bubbling up in the NFL. So in my mind it was like: You know what, this might be it for you. I was actually trying to become a coach at that point, because I didn’t know what else I’d do after retiring from football.

I knew the OC in Washington at the time, Scott Turner. He was someone who believed in me from the beginning of my career, so I called him up and asked if he knew of any coaching opportunities. He talked to me about finishing my degree, and what steps I’d need to take to go the coaching route. And then, right before we got off the phone, he paused for a second and said: “Listen, man … maybe don’t hang up the cleats just yet. Covid is changing everything. And you never know in this league.”

I hung up and was like, Hmmm.

I went back home, lived at my sister’s place for a while, took some classes online at ODU, and, before I knew it, I got the call to come to Washington as an emergency quarterback. Then, four weeks later, after a bunch of unexpected twists, Coach Rivera sits me down and tells me I’m going to be starting at QB against the Bucs. Like, are you kidding me? A month removed from sleeping on my sister’s couch and typing up term papers — and now I’m starting an NFL playoff game against Tom Brady, the GOAT.

So much for retirement, right?

Julio Cortez/AP

Before I ran out of the tunnel for that game, I remember looking out at the field, and then up into the stands … and just thinking about my whole journey. Undersized, under-recruited, undrafted, five different NFL teams, practice squads, waiver claims, the XFL, the whole thing. I remember shaking my head, almost in disbelief. And then just telling myself — excuse my language — F*** it! Let’s Go!!!!! It was basically just like, Let’s sling it today, man. Leave it all out there on the field. Have the time of your life and show everyone what you’re made of.

That day, I gotta say, even though the end result wasn’t what we all wanted … it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had on a football field. (And I’ve had a lot of fun playing football over the years.) Just grinding and battling and using every last bit of energy I had to try and get us that win.

And I’ll tell you something that maybe I shouldn’t … but whatever. Right around the middle of the third quarter, when we’d made it a one-possession game and were moving the ball pretty good, there was this moment on the sidelines where … I mean I’m a human being, right? So for a second, I couldn’t help but have it creep into my brain like … Man, Taylor, you’re playing a nice game here. This might buy you a couple more years in the league.

Then I would sit down on the bench, and I’d do everything I could to erase that thought from my mind. Every time it’d pop in there I’d be like, Nah! You know what would be even better? If we got this done and beat the GOAT.

I just kept thinking, like, This is waaaaaay bigger than just you.

And, honestly, during my time in Washington, that was one of the main things that I kept coming back to again and again: how fortunate I was to land on a team with a fan base like this one — and in a city that loves football as much as you all.

Via Washington Commanders

Look, I’m not gonna lie: It’s heartbreaking to be leaving. I’m getting emotional just sitting here thinking about it. This team, and the people of Washington, I just cannot thank you guys enough for the support and encouragement you showed me.

It might seem like a little thing, but there’s this one moment from that last home game against Dallas this past year that will stick with me forever. Sam got the start in that one and led us to a win. I didn’t get into the game, but I’ll never forget, after it ended, I was taking a moment on the field to let it all sink in since I knew it might be my last game in Washington, and I saw this guy in the stands holding up a sign. Super simple. Nothing fancy. It said, “THANK YOU TAYLOR H!”

Seeing that sign, I basically lost it right then and there. The tears started flowing. That sign just brought back all the memories of what I’d gone through over the years — all the hard work, the doubters, just … everything. And it helped me realize that people saw me. They saw me work and grind and fight for this team, for this city. It was like … They get me. They get what I’m all about.

Alex Brandon/AP

So I felt like it wouldn’t be right to leave without telling you all how much you’ve meant to me. I’m truly grateful for everything this fan base has given me these last few years. Thank you for embracing me and supporting me while I live out my dream.

And I do want to give a special thanks to Coach Rivera. Obviously the end of the road for me in Washington was a little bit rocky, with how it all went down, but I want everyone to know that there’s no hard feelings. I’m very grateful for the opportunities Coach Rivera gave me over the years. For him trusting me and believing in me again and again. And the fact that he and the coaching staff and my teammates and the fans and everyone else in Washington accepted me with open arms … that means the world to me. Because that stuff wasn’t a given, by any stretch of the imagination.

Nothing is ever a given when you’re talking about someone like me. 

I know who I am. I don’t have the strongest arm. I throw a decent amount of picks. I do some dumb stuff sometimes out there. I cop to all that. It’s true. But I also fight like hell. And I know how to get W’s. So, at the end of the day, I hope that I still gave you all something to cheer for. And if you look at the team over the last couple of years, I hope that in my own way I still left my mark. I think you saw a group that was out there doing what I always want to be doing: battling and grinding. Whether it was going up to Philly on a Monday night and taking down an undefeated team, or going toe-to-toe with Brady in that playoff game, or scratching and clawing to try and get into the playoffs …  we were a group that never stopped fighting, and never settled or threw in the towel. I’m proud of that. All of that stuff mattered to me.

And when people look back on my time in Washington, I hope that’s what they remember most.