Taylor steps down as head coach, Gammerdinger appointed as replacement
March 11, 2018
Taylor takes Pflugerville job, calling it ‘a leap of faith’
Former players praise outgoing coach and say his departure will make challenge of next season even tougher
2017 was the best year in school history for the McCallum football program. The team made it to the state semifinals, so it was to be expected that head coach Charles Taylor would get some looks from programs looking to hire a new coach. One such program, Pflugerville High School, liked what they saw in Taylor, and offered him the a job as head coach and athletic director. Taylor informed his football team and the faculty on Wednesday that he had accepted the offer and will leave McCallum.
“It was a great opportunity, good for my family, close to the house,” Taylor told The Shield. “Just little details like that when I looked at it sold it for me.”
Taylor said that he had thought about the idea of moving to Pflugerville for a little while, but once he made the decision to move, he looked ahead at all that the school had to offer.
“It’s a school that is rich in tradition and history,” Taylor said. “The past couple of years they haven’t been great, but they do have potential, and it’s just one of those jobs. They came down to 5A [in the recently announced reclassification], and I think it’ll be a pretty good situation.”
Taylor’s departure accentuates what already promised to dramatic change next year. Before Monday’s announcement, the team knew it was to lose 24 seniors to graduation, but now a head coach will have to fill big shoes just like many of the returning football players in 2018.
Because of the team’s great success this season, many of the players said they believed Taylor might leave the school for another coaching job.
Senior linebacker JB Faught said that the move did not come as much of a surprise considering how far the team made it in playoffs.
“I understand, they pay more out there, and Coach Taylor has a family; he has to do what is best for him,” Faught said. “He’s done a lot of good things for McCallum.”
Senior defensive end Jack Switzer agreed with Faught but said Taylor’s departure came earlier than he expected.
“I saw it coming too,” Switzer said, “but I was shocked that it happened this early. I thought it would happen towards the end of the year, not in February.”
Principal Mike Garrison was also not surprised at the move for Taylor.
“Coach Taylor is a very talented coach and a great individual,” Garrison said. “There was no doubt in my mind that eventually he was going to find another job that would present more challenges for him.”
Senior defensive back Tyrell Washington said that the move is hard, considering the impact Taylor made in his own life.
“I’m a little disappointed that he decided to leave,” Washington said. “I thought he was going to stay. If I was a junior I probably would have cried, but I’m a senior now so I won’t be here next year.”
Senior wide receiver Davis Roe added that Taylor is just doing what he thinks is best for his career, and that he respects that.
“He’s on to new, bigger things, but we will miss him for sure.” Roe said.
Taylor informed his current football class of the move before he told the faculty in an email. Many of the returning players said they also were not caught totally off guard by the decision. According to junior defensive back Gabe Williams, when Taylor broke the news to the team, they were accepting and congratulating to Taylor.
“I was a little disappointed at first, but I realized it was what was best for him,” Williams said. “So at the end of his little speech I congratulated him and wished him well.”
According to Garrison, Taylor will leave behind a legacy that was as much about the process as it was about the results on the scoreboard.
“He developed a program that the students bought into and they worked hard,” Garrison said. “They did what they were asked to do, he held them accountable, he did things the way and he expected his players to do things the right way.”
With the roster losing 24 seniors, the adjustment for the juniors, sophomores and freshmen will be even steeper than previously thought. Senior running back Alexander Julian said that the juniors are going to have to step it up.
“They will just need to become leaders themselves and take that part over,” Julian said. “They’ll need to know that they are going to have to face a lot of adversity, but they can overcome it. I know they can.”
Switzer agreed that the team is going to have to be self-motivated and take the initiative to come to the weight room for early morning workouts.
“They’re going to have to work harder in the weight room, and unfortunately there are elements that the players can’t control that are happening to them right now,” Switzer said. “They’re just going to have to stick together.”
Senior safety Will Loewen said that taking advantage of the offseason will be key.
“Just keep on working,” Loewen said. “Take advantage of the off season because it’s a really great time to build up talent, both as a football player but also building up character as a person.”
Roe agreed that the juniors will need to work hard but that they will also need to keep in the mindset of not giving up on themselves.
“There are a lot of talented kids, and if we have learned anything from this season it’s that teamwork and believing in your teammates, that’s what makes the difference,” Roe said. “So just keep that mindset while they are in the weight room.”
Faught said that one of the biggest things that Taylor implemented in the team was to be all in with the season.
“He used our team as an analogy of a boat,” Faught said. “When we were 4-6 [as the Knights were two season ago], it was just the boat and no one wanted any part of it, and this year [as the team went 14-1], everyone wanted to get in the boat, and was like ‘you can’t be halfway in the boat, you have to be all the way in.’”
Roe remembers Taylor as being animated, always fired up on the sidelines.
“You can see it in the film,” Roe said. “So when someone does something wrong or messes up, he’s on the sideline screaming and throwing stuff. He was fun to play under, so I’ll miss him.”
According to Washington, one of Taylor’s biggest messages was to believe.
“That’s the one thing he always told us,” Washington said. “We made it to the playoffs because he told us to believe, and just work hard because that’s what got us where we are: we made history.”
In terms of the future of McCallum football, many of the players agreed on who they wanted to be the next head coach.
“I hope Coach G is the head coach,” Loewen said. “He has really helped me grow both as a person and an athlete. He deserves it; he works hard. He also leads the workouts during the summer and puts a lot into the program.”
Coach Thomas Gammerdinger is the defensive coordinator and has been with the McCallum football program for a long time.
“I’m not sure what they are going to do about head coach next year,” Julian said. “But I hope Coach G gets it because he deserves it the most.”
In terms of deciding a new head coach, Garrison says the process will play out over several weeks.
“Once [Taylor] resigns, we then open up the position and post it with the AISD job opening website,” Garrison said. “We will screen through the resumes, kind of determine who we think will be a good fit for McCallum. We will set up an interview committee and then hopefully pick the best person for McCallum.”
The position was posted within the last few days, so it will stay up for about three weeks until word has spread that it is open and those who are interested and apply will be interviewed.
Even though many said they weren’t surprised by Taylor’s departure, he said it was no easy move to make. He said he will miss McCallum, and all of the memories he enjoyed here as the head coach, his favorite being making it to the state semifinals. When asked what he will miss most, Taylor answered quickly.
“Oh the kids, the faculty, the community,” Taylor said. “It’s a great school. It really is, and I’m just going to miss that. I enjoyed my time here, but you just have to take a leap of faith.”
Garrison said that he will miss Taylor’s presence on campus and their conversations they had about the coming football game that week.
“I’ll miss Coach Taylor coming up the halls in the morning, talking to any of us administrators who were out here in the hall while the kids were going to class,,” Garrison said, “ especially during the football season, talking about the game and upcoming games and our players and the challenges they were going to face in the next game.”
For many of the players, what Taylor has taught them on the field will serve them for the rest of their lives.
“Coach Taylor has taught me to believe in myself,” Washington said. “Just put in all your hard work, and try your hardest and you can accomplish anything you want.”
With reporting by Steven Tibbetts, Maddie Doran and Zoe Hocker.
Coach G named head coach, AD
Principal, players--even the head custodian--all say Gammerdinger is the right man to lead Mac football
Defensive coordinator Thomas Gammerdinger has accepted an offer to become the next head football coach and athletic director at McCallum. It is an outcome that has been anticipated since former head coach Charles Taylor announced that he was leaving Mac for Pflugerville on Feb. 14.
The football booster club Tweeted on Friday afternoon that Gammerdinger had accepted the job, and principal Mike Garrison confirmed with MacJournalism that he had recommended that Gammerdinger be the next coach and AD.
“Coach Gammerdinger is the right man for the job,” Garrison told MacJournalism on Saturday. “He knows football, he loves McCallum, he loves his players, and with his leadership, the McCallum football program will continue to be successful.”
The booster club echoed that sentiment.
“He played a huge role in the team’s recent successes,” the booster club said via Twitter, “and he’ll have the opportunity to build on that foundation. The program is in very good hands.”
As defensive coordinator, Gammerdinger oversaw a vast improvement in the team’s defense during its historic 2017 regular season and playoff run. After giving up 130 points in their first five games of the season, the Knight defense held its next nine opponents (including four playoff teams) to 72 points. In the season’s signature win–a 20-7 victory over 2016 5A D2 state finalist Calallen–the defense had perhaps its finest hour.
“[The statistical improvement] is a testament to these kids and their commitment to the process of getting better, and it was really, really impressive,” Gammerdinger said.
At the football banquet in January, Gammerdinger was quick to give his players the credit for the turnaround.
“You really can’t say enough about these kids. It’s just a really special group of people. They did everything we ever asked them to do. We always talk about how on defense we want to play with effort, accountability and toughness, and these guys, they lived it. It’s rare to meet a group of young people who are as committed to something as these guys were.”
Gammerdinger, or Coach G to his players and students, may be correct to praise his students for their commitment to getting better. But to a man, these same players have praised Gammerdinger for teaching them how to do so. In postseason comments, the senior defensive players who are playing on Saturdays next year have all credited his role in providing them that opportunity.
Linebacker Jackson Masters credited Gammerdinger and his other Mac coaches for helping him grow from a scrawny freshman special teams player into a senior defensive leader who will play Division 1 football at Texas State next year. He especially praised Coach G for running the offseason weight program that helped him get bigger and strong between his junior and senior years.
“I don’t think I could ever thank Coach G, Coach Osorio, and everyone else enough for what they did for me,” Masters said. “G, Osorio, and Stancik helped me develop into a good football player and they are like father figures to me. I love them. I only got this type of opportunity because of what the coaches, my teammates, my parents and what McCallum did for me.”
Tackle Judah Copeland expressed the same gratitude when he talked about his opportunity to play college football at Harding University next season.
“[The coaches] gave me the most they can give to a freshman,” Copeland said. “Mac gave me the worth ethic it really takes to be successful doing anything really. Shout out to Coach G for that. That man is one of the hardest working men I have ever been around.”
Coach G’s work ethic was praised repeatedly by his players. He will inherit a program that will lose 24 seniors to graduation, so the challenge of maintaining last year’s performance standard will be considerable. But based on the comments of those who know him well, it is certain that no coach is going to work any harder than he will to build a successful team.
Senior safety and Fighting Knight Award winner Will Loewen and AP First-Team All-State running back Alexander Julian joined Copeland and Masters in marveling at Coach G’s work ethic.
It’s not just players who recognize that work that Gammerdinger puts into his job.
“He is one of the hardest working Knights I have ever seen,” head custodian Daniel Sena said in an Instagram reply to MacJournalism’s post about Gammerdinger’s hire.
But Gammerdinger’s willingness to work hard is equaled by a humility that have endeared him to his players, students and peers on the faculty.
“In the last couple of months, people keep coming up to me to thank me what they think I did for them or what they think that I did for their kid, but the thanks should go to these kids,” Gammerdinger said at the year-end football banquet. “They took us on the ride of a lifetime. These memories I have, I’ll never forget them so I thank them.”
Enough with the compliments, Coach G would probably say at this point: it’s time to get to work.
Below are some archival postgame interviews with Coach G from the 2016 season. Videos by Joseph Cardenas.
MacJournalism’s Joseph Cardenas interviews Coach Gammerdinger after the Knights defeated Kerrville Tivy in the opening round of the 2016 playoffs at House Park.
MacJournalism’s Joseph Cardenas interviews Coach Gammerdinger after the Knights defeated Akins in 2016 to improve the team’s record to 4-0 heading into district play in 2016.