Imagining Taggart as a college recruiter

by Gary Shelton on December 7, 2017 · 0 comments

in general

Willie Taggart has a knack for recruiting. /ANDREW J. KRAMER

Willie Taggart has a knack for recruiting. /ANDREW J. KRAMER

Thursday, 3 a.m.

You imagine a living room decorated in early-American football trophies.

There are photographs and banners scattered about, all memories of the favorite son. There are notations of records, On the desk is a large stack of invitations to scholarships. Some are not even opened.

And on the couch is Willie Taggart. He just got here; he's talking about lasting a lifetime.

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Taggart is talking about the momentum at FSU. Yeah, it got interruped last year, but he swears he'll get it going again. He's talking about the Seminoles in the NFL. He's talking about the improvement of the ACC.

He is good at this part of the game. Taggart was on the verge of having the best recruiting class in the history of Oregon, a class that has been ranked as high as ninth in the country. Oregon fans were as upset over the possibility of that class falling apart as they were of Taggart leaving.

But now Taggart is home again, back in Florida, and he speaks in a comfortable, familiar tone to the linebacker across from him. Taggart is young enough to understand his players; he's old enough to command their respect,

"We're going to shake the world," Taggart is saying. "Everyone thinks that a team has to dip when a new coach comes aboard. But I think players want to play at Florida State. I think you want that, too. We already have your number. We already have your locker. We just need your signature."

Taggart smiles and leans back. He makes small talk with the parents -- every recruiter will tell you that first, you have to win over the parents. He talks about being the running back's age, of how he loved Florida State, of how he wanted to go there to play if he had the chance he is offering.

The running back looks at his mother. She smiles. She seems ready to start chopping.

Dan Mullen will be here tomorrow, the linebacker thinks. He could imagine himself in garnet and gold, but he could imagine himself in orange and blue, too. He doesn't know much about Mullen, but Tim Tebow, the old Gator, called him the other day and vouched for him. Tebow was in the top five in the Heisman voting three striaght years. So what if he bombed in the pros?

There have been a lot of calls lately. Mark Richt called last week. He's from Miami, right? I liked him.

Who is the new dude at Central Florida? Josh Huepel?  He called, which was impressive. I wasn't sure he would know the area code. What? He's been in Florida as long  as your average Disney World fan.

A telegram came from Lane Kiffin of FAU. But Kiffin is going to leave FAU so fast, he's going to leave skid marks. I got a text from Butch Davis. Who taught him how to text? When Butch started recruiting, he had to go through Thelma Lou, the operator.

Charlie Strong of USF sounded cool. He said I could play right away at USF. That could be interesting. I don't want to watch. I want people to watch me. At USF, literally dozens of fans would watch.

What's he saying now? Oh, Taggart is talking about school. Big deal.I'm going to major in touchdowns. I'm going to minor in end zones.

Wait. Now Taggart is talking about the great FSU players. Charlie Ward. Deion Sanders. Derrick Brooks. That's better. Of course, Florida can throw greats at you too. My granddad loved Steve Spurrier. There was Wilber Marshall and Emmitt Smith and Percy Harvin. Heck, there was even Aaron Hernandez. Who do I need to kill?

Hey, I'm joking. Right?

Coaches keep coming here, and they keep talking about school and facilities and traditions. I guess those are important things, but is a history textbook really that different between UCF and USF?

Wait. Coach Taggart is talking to me again. He's talking about dreams. He's talking about goals. He's talking about achievement.

I like him. Yeah, I could play for him. I can see myself going to his office. I can see trusting him for four years. Well, at least three.

Still, there are the Gators. Even after firing its coach, Florida is 12th in the nation in recruiting. Mississippi State, Mullen's old school, is 13th.

Taggart says he can make up the difference. We'll see.

Maybe if I sign with him, it'll help. Yeah. Mom? Do we have a pen?


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