HONOLULU - There's one player missing from the Pro Bowl everyone keeps mentioning.
The slain Washington Redskins safety, voted an NFC starter for today's all-star game, will have a presence at Aloha Stadium.
All three Redskins on hand - tackle Chris Samuels, tight end Chris Cooley, and long snapper Ethan Albright - will wear Taylor's No. 21. Those jerseys will be auctioned after the game on nfl.com, with proceeds going to the Sean Taylor Memorial Trust Fund, which was set up to benefit his daughter, Jackie.
The league also paid for many of Taylor's family members, including father Pedro, to come to Hawaii. In all, Pedro Taylor said, there will be "12 or 13" on hand.
"It's all about respect," Pedro Taylor said. "You come here, you just enjoy what you do, and you ensure that you're going to recognize your teammate. The guys are doing that . . . it's an honor."
Taylor died Nov. 27 after being shot at his home during a botched robbery attempt. Teams have worn a No. 21 decal on their helmets ever since, which Pedro Taylor called "a special honor. It's great that the Redskins organization and the NFL allowed them to do this.
"I'm quite sure he's looking down at us and smiling. You can't take that away from him."
Teammates and opponents have paid tribute to the free safety throughout the week.
"He's always close to my heart," Samuels said. "I think about Sean every day. He's definitely supposed to be here with us. It's going to be big on Sunday for us to honor Sean."
Added Browns tight end Kellen Winslow, who played at the University of Miami with Taylor: "It's just great they're wearing 21, and that Sean's family is coming. It's awesome who Sean was and what he stood for. It's such a shame he is gone; I keep him right here [pointing to his heart]."
The only player voted posthumously to the Pro Bowl, Taylor also is remembered for his debut in the game a year ago. He leveled Buffalo punter Brian Moorman on a fake punt.
Samuels, a Pro Bowler last year, remembers the hit more than anything else about that Pro Bowl.
"It's good to see everyone is still remembering Sean," Samuels said. "It's important. And it's good to see he hasn't been forgotten."
Dallas's Ken Hamlin will start at free safety; there was no word if the NFC would open the game with 10 defenders as the Redskins did in their first game after Taylor's death.
Overall, there are 41 first-timers in the Pro Bowl, the most since 44 were selected in 2000, according to STATS LLC.
Among those newcomers are a few award winners: both rookies of the year, of course (Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson and San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis); and comeback player Greg Ellis, a Cowboys outside linebacker.
For Ellis, a Pro Bowl spot is particularly noteworthy because the 10-year veteran tore his left Achilles' tendon in the 2006 season, struggled in his return, and didn't become a regular for Dallas until the seventh game of 2007. He went on to get 12 1/2 sacks and teamed with fellow outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware to terrorize offenses.
"When you aren't sure if you can make it back, or if you do, how well you will play, then it really is special to wind up in the Pro Bowl," Ellis said. "If you're hurt, obviously you'd love to be able to come back and win the comeback player of the year. The best thing is when the guys you play with see you take a hit or hit someone and they say, 'Yeah, he's safe again.' "
Another award winner is Bob Sanders of the Colts, defensive player of the year.
The only member of the Super Bowl champion Giants is defensive end Osi Umenyiora, while six Patriots are on hand after Tom Brady and Randy Moss dropped out after the Super Bowl.