Trooper wows campers

The high school coaches started to laugh as soon as they saw him walk through the door. Seconds later, Trooper Taylor was there, exchanging handshakes, laughing, talking, telling jokes.

Senior Editor Phillip Marshall

In the stands at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, high school players, coaches and parents in town for Auburn’s last football camp of the summer were finding seats. Once they were there, Taylor took the microphone and shared his story.

Taylor talked about growing up in a family of 16 children, about the last time he saw his father alive and the story of why the wears his cap backward in honor of his father. He told them about the men in his life who helped fill the void for a 12-year-old, though “most of them weren’t the same color as I was and none of them had the same last name.” He talked about declining his father’s request for a kiss on the morning, the regret he felt for that and his love and devotion for his own family.

There is, you see, a very serious side to Trooper Taylor. Listen to him tell his story, and you know it’s a very real part of all that he is. When he talks about family, he means it. Those men who were there for him all those years ago inspired him to do what he does today – to be a coach, a mentor, to open his heart, to say to the young men who come his way “we are family.”

It’s not by accident that Taylor is a favorite of Auburn players – black players, white players, players who have almost nothing and players who have plenty.

Not everyone likes it when Taylor runs down the sideline waving his towel on football Saturdays. Not everyone likes the effervescent personality. But fans love it. Players love it.

Those same players will tell you quickly that Taylor can coach, too. He resurrected the careers of Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachery, who had been all but discarded by the previous staff. He is a demanding taskmaster on the practice field.

The way Taylor’s personality fills a room, it comes as no surprise that he is a recruiter supreme. His success has earned him share of critics. He shrugs them aside.

“Everybody is entitled to their own opinions,” Taylor told me in an interview for a story last month. “If it was my mom saying it, it would bother me. If it was somebody I’ve worked for or a coach I’ve played for, it would bother me. If it was a player that played for me, it would bother me. You can’t please everybody.”

Some of the nation’s top prospects were in town Saturday to see what Auburn football was all about. They will no doubt remember the coach with his cap on backward, the coach with a big smile and an infectious laugh, the coach who talked more about family than football.

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