IN HIS three-year NFL career, Redskins receiver Taylor Jacobs, nagged by minor injuries, has yet to become the star he was as a Florida Gator. Jacobs, though, has stayed confident. He says he learned to keep an even keel and a sense of perspective from his younger brother, Evan, who has Down syndrome. "If Coach Gibbs or a bum off the street came up to him, he would treat them both exactly the same way. I love that," says Taylor. "Or if I had the best game or the worst game of my life, he's just as excited and will hug me just as hard afterward. It's unconditional love."
Taylor, 24, and Evan, who's 21 but at the intellectual level of a seven-year-old, grew up on a 25-acre farm near Tallahassee, Fla., and spent time fishing, swimming and riding horses. "We like to go bowling together now," says Taylor. "There's no one I have more fun with than Evan. I'm protective of him. Growing up, he needed a lot of attention. I learned patience."
Jacobs's mother, Sandy, then a special education teacher, had met his dad, Harry, an assistant principal, in 1976 when they were helping out with the Special Olympics. The night Evan was born, Sandy says, Harry was wearing a Special Olympics T-shirt. "I guess we were destined to have Evan," says Sandy. "It was a family joke that we would have one kid in the Olympics and the other in the Special Olympics." Evan fulfilled half that prophecy, winning gold in the backstroke in Florida's Special Olympics this year.
Taylor's family connection is why, despite being MVP of the 2002 Orange Bowl and being urged by advisers to jump to the NFL, he stayed in Florida as a senior. "I just didn't want to leave yet," he says. "Our family doesn't click unless we're all together." They're still close. Last month Sandy and Evan came to live with Taylor near D.C. and will stay for the rest of the year. Right after their arrival Taylor had his best game, making four catches in a 23-17 loss to the Chargers. Of course, even if he'd gone without a reception, Evan would have welcomed him home with a hug.