He Was the First to Call Me 'Coach'

Published: Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 09:17 AM.

            I stood for a moment and took a deep breath. I had never actually interviewed for a job in my life. I was 21, wouldn’t graduate from college until the following week, had driven five hundred miles for this meeting and somehow sensed the next few minutes could be life changing for me. My feet were out-racing my brain as I moved toward the big man watching a P.E. class run across the field.

            He stood as I neared and extended a hand. “You must be the young man Walter told me about.” My goodness, his handshake was like a vise! But his smile moved across his whole face. We talked for over an hour as one class was dismissed and another hurried unto the field. He asked very few questions, mostly about my life and family. But he leaned in just enough on the answers for me to realize he was not going through the motions here. He was interested in me. His sincerity was real. I didn’t need that college education to know this guy was as genuine as they come.  

            He was excited about the “young men” coming back for the 1969 football season. He thought his center and quarterback were of excellent character. The offensive line was going to be the best he had since returning to Port St. Joe. We had one very good defensive end and linebackers that would “run to the ball”. We have a chance to win a lot of football games this year. He said “we” like I was already on the team. 

            Wayne Taylor was the first person ever to call me “Coach”.

            I was particularly struck by his forthrightness, his passion for life and his obvious love for the young men under his charge. The pride he had in the school, the sports programs and the community itself came through in every sentence. He made it seem like more of a “calling” than a “job”.

His eyes lit up when he walked me back to my car—and realized I’d driven down in a 1963 Corvair Monza. I felt like I’d come in “on a wing and a prayer”. That car smoked and coughed most of the five hundred miles. Coach Taylor was going over that thing like it was a Ferrari or something!  I’m not sure till this day if he hired me for my potential or he just liked my car.    

            I was near ’bout back to Birmingham when it dawned on me. He didn’t ask one question about football. He hadn’t sought out my thoughts on the “veer offense” versus the “power I”. We didn’t talk “balanced attack” or a “split middle” defensive set. He seemed more interested in young men than pass routes or blocking assignments. I could still feel the goodbye handshake and his direct gaze as he offered me the job and wished me well no matter what I decided.



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