Sean Taylor seemed to have it all. The Washington Redskins star was an NFL Pro Bowl safety -- a millionaire athlete -- who played America's most popular sport with reckless abandon.
An unknown suspect shot Taylor, 24, early Monday in his home; he died from his injury early Tuesday. Taylor was apparently trying to protect his girlfriend of seven years and his 18-month-old daughter from the intruder.
In a city where Taylor's football team at times gets more attention than Capitol Hill politics, stunned teammates and fans struggled to cope.
"He's just a special person and, you know, he will truly be missed by all of us," said Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell.
"We'll hold him close to our hearts, and it's just a tough situation right now, you know, and …" Campbell trailed off, visibly upset over the news of his teammate's death.
The exact circumstances of Taylor's murder are not yet known. Investigators are trying to determine if it was random violence or, if, as a celebrity athlete, Taylor could have been targeted.
A week before his murder, someone broke into Taylor's Miami home while he was away and left a knife on his bed. Taylor was so concerned about his family he went home.
Now police are looking at that break-in, and whether his past associations and run-ins with the law could have played a role in the incident.
A Troubled Past
Taylor had a somewhat troubled past, including a 2005 incident in which he allegedly brandished a firearm after he was robbed.
In an interview later that year, a Comcast Sports Net reporter asked Taylor about being shot at after the incident.
"One shot of a bullet or whatever the case is, it changes lives. It's just, basically staying out of those kinds of things and staying out of harm's way," he told Kelli Johnson.
Campbell said he noticed his teammate's changed attitude.
"[Taylor] had all the intention to try to do the right things for people in the community, and you know, you just look at him from the way that he's changed over the last year, and … it's been outstanding to have the opportunity to spend time with him," he said.
That sentiment was shared by team owner Daniel Snyder and coach Joe Gibbs at a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
"Over the last two years, I got a chance to really see him grow as a man, off the field he became very, very important to me, and our organization and coach Gibbs," said Snyder.
Gibbs also commented on what he saw as Taylor's deepening relationship with God, and the maturity he developed after becoming a father.
"This is a tragedy. The thing that brings back to me is how fragile life is, and for me personally, where it's touched me, is that, you know, we need to enjoy each and every day and each and every minute," Gibbs said.
Regardless of the exact circumstances, Taylor was a victim of chronic violence, which disproportionately affects blacks, who are six times more likely to be the victims of murder than whites.
In the last decade, more than 100,000 people in this country have been murdered. In other words, someone is killed every 30 minutes.
Trying to make some sense of the crime, a small group of fans gathered at the Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va., Tuesday.
Brion Hannan is a long-time fan of the team; he told ABC News that his father has been a part of the Redskins' marching band for 36 seasons.
Hannan said that as a father himself, his heart went out to Taylor's daughter.
"Hopefully, the family and fans can help his little girl remember what kind of person he was, and she'll be able to know her dad that way. But I just think it's horrible," he said.
Difficult as it is, the Redskins have to take the field this Sunday.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league will honor Taylor's memory at all games played this weekend.
"This is a terrible tragedy involving the loss of a young man who leaves behind many people struggling to understand it," his statement said.
ABC News' Cullen Dirner contributed to this report.