Taylor gets Flashes back to winning big

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 17, 2002

[12/15/02]It is a first for St. Aloysius coach Jim Taylor.

He has been pacing the sidelines since 1966, his hair is now a brilliant white and his gunslinger-blue eyes have seen just about all there is to see on a football field.

But in 36 seasons of coaching football, Taylor, 58, has never won a football oriented award until now.

Taylor is the 2002 Vicksbrug Post Coach of the Year.

“To win coach of the year in Vicksburg, with the area having so many outstanding football teams and coaches, it’s quite an honor to me and a compliment to our players and coaching staff,” Taylor said.

As fate would have it, Taylor’s coaching regime in the Vicksburg area was merely a matter of coincidence, his term at St. Al a stroke of luck.

After graduating from Mississippi State in the spring of ’66, Taylor made a road trip to Vicksburg with a friend who had come to interview for a job at Culkin Junior High School. Taylor patiently waited in the car until fate knocked on the passenger side window.

“My friend was interviewing for the job and they came out and asked me if I was interested in a job,” Taylor said. “And I just ended up staying in Warren County all these years.”

The coaching position was at then-Redwood Junior High, and part of the job description entailed working with the varsity team at Warren Central. In two years time, Redwood became Warren Central Junior High, and Taylor joined forces with a defensive-minded coach by the name of Robert Morgan.

“We did have some pretty good junior varsity teams,” Taylor said with a smile.

The early coaching position provided an extensive amount of football knowledge. Since football teams weren’t lumped together in one junior varsity team like they are today, Taylor and Morgan were responsible for coaching the seventh-through-ninth-grade teams and the junior varsity, not to mention scouting on Friday nights.

“We coached all day long, just about. We both worked our way up to position coaches,” Taylor said. “So when I hear young coaches complain about what they have to do now, I sort of laugh at them because I know none of them had to do what we had to do then.”

Good teams would follow Taylor for the next 30 years, until his retirement in December of 1996. Fortunately for the Flashes, the head football coaching position opened in ’98, and Taylor applied.

“The opportunity to coach here more or less gave me the opportunity to stay in Vicksburg. St. Al always had a winning tradition, type of place you’d like to be. It’s a quality school with a winning tradition,” Taylor said. “When you thought of St. Al, you thought of hard-nosed football, and that’s the reason I came and applied here.”

Taylor steadily built the Flashes with a winning record in each of his first four seasons before they exploded this season with a 9-2 regular season record, earning their first playoff berth since 1996, where they eventually lost to state champion Puckett.

“I think he deserves this award because he made us work hard, and he worked hard to get the award,” Flashes senior running back Greg Smith said. “We wouldn’t have gotten to where we did this year if it hadn’t been for him. He drove us, made us do the extra work to get there.”Taylor will just as quickly disperse the praise among his players, especially his 11 seniors, of which there were five first-team all-region players: quarterback Chad Cox, defensive back Michael Engle, linebacker Walker Hengst, lineman John Parks and Smith.

“It’s a funny thing about teams, it’s not always about how many great players you got, it’s just the chemistry of the team,” Taylor said. “We had some outstanding talent, but I think that overall it was just the maturity and the teamwork that we had among the players, and a lot of above average ability put together, that made us successful.”

Strangely enough, it was the 6-0 loss to Mize that proved to Taylor how far his Flashes had come.

“My highlight was being 6-0 and going to Mize, a powerhouse in 1A every year. Even though we didn’t win the game, I think it was a landmark for us. We were there, in a position to win the ballgame. A Mize team, that on any given year, no one would have been surprised if they beat us 35-0,” Taylor said. “It’s a highlight that we established ourselves as a competitor.

“Everyone had to realize that we could play with anyone in 1A on a week-to-week basis. We could compete.”

The Flashes left little doubt that they could compete this year, but Engle recalls learning something much more important from Taylor than merely football.

“I learned good character, just the way to be,” Engle said. “If I could see myself at his age, that’s the way I’d want to be.

“He’s happy all the time, jokes around, has a great sense of humor.

“He’s the person I’d want to be.”