Michael, known as “MT” or “MT-400” to his friends, was renowned for his athleticism and for being supportive of others both on and off the field. He received many athletic awards in three sports: football, basketball, and track. His coaches lauded him for his friendly attitude, strong work ethic, and for inspiring teammates and coaches alike. Known as the best defender in the Los Padres League, MT was confident, kind and the one to show up first when someone needed help.
MT was conscious of his appearance, his clothing, and his style. His goal was for his good friends, Julian, Derrick, and Drayten, to become big in sports and for MT to be their stylist. Michael and his friends would take day trips out of town to shop. His best friend, Celeste, has thousands of pictures of him on her phone. “He would force me to take ‘candid’ pictures of him because he didn’t want his outfit to go to waste,” she said. Her screensaver is a picture of the two of them and features Michael’s well-known dazzling smile. No one knew that behind his smile, MT was struggling with addiction. He hid it well.
Michael’s home life was not ideal. Substance use in the family caused him to live with friends or be in foster care as a child. He wanted a better life and his outgoing, fun spirit attracted people to him. Michael was community-oriented, bringing people together. He was charming, genuine, and adventurous. He loved to party and dance, especially to his favorite tune, “Suavemente.”
Michael created brotherly relationships and close familial bonds with many people. His “second mother” Sarah (as he called her) met Michael through her daughter, Celeste. He became a part of the family, attending family events, holidays, and birthdays. “Celeste and he were like siblings. I think he liked the family dynamic. He felt the love in our home,” Sarah stated. Michael had a playful relationship with Celeste’s father and loved her siblings.
After high school, Michael went to Community College and was talking with a Division II college coach about the possibility of playing football. He passed away before that could happen. He left a legacy for others to follow. Hundreds of people attended his over-capacity funeral. Several of his friends adopted his jersey number – two – for their college teams. His high school started the Michael Taylor Defensive Back of the Year Award in his honor. Several players and friends have tattoos for MT and still post pictures and memories of him on social media, especially on Valentine’s Day, Michael’s birthday.
Celeste said, “He was my first call of the day, every day.” Neither Celeste nor Sarah knew Michael had a problem with drugs. They now realize this could happen to anyone and caution people not to judge others but to stay connected and try to be there for them. They frequently share stories about Michael to keep his memory alive. Celeste said, “Michael would tell me to live my life to the fullest, but to be smart about it.” She added, “He always said I love you; I just wish I would have told him I loved him more often.”
Michael’s best friend and “little sister,” Celeste Hilario, and his “second mom,” Sarah Hilario, provided the information for this narrative.
February 14, 1998-March 2, 2018
Age 20-Lived with the disease of addiction for two years.