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


Julie Robertson, Editor in chief

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 with AP All-State tackle Judah Copeland at the year-end football banquet. Photo by Dave Winter

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.”

Taylor consoles his starting quarterback and Centex Offensive Player of the Year Max Perez after the seminal loss to College Station at NRG Stadium in Houston. Photo by Madison Olsen.

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.”

Taylor fights back emotions in the final moments of his team’s semifinal loss to College Station at NRG Stadium. Photo by Madison Olsen.

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.”

Taylor accepts congratulatory remarks from AISD Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz after the Knights defeated Calallen to win the Region IV title at the Alamodome. Photo by Dave Winter.

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.”

Taylor almost escapes a victory bath from his players in the final seconds of the team’s victory over Alice at the Alamodome. Photo by Ian Clennan.

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.”

Taylor and his son lead the team out on the field at NRG Stadium. Photo by Madison Olsen.

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.