On Aug. 31, Manatee High School alum Willie Taggart, 36, will step onto the field at Raymond James Stadium as the first African-American head football coach in University of South Florida history—although he’s not dwelling on that distinction. “I just want to be known as a football coach,” he says.
A state championship-winning quarterback at Manatee, Taggart says he sees Hurricanes coach Joe Kinnan as a model. “He was organized and highly competitive throughout the entire year,” he says. “To me, that’s the winning way.” Taggart’s coaching career has included positions at his alma mater, Western Kentucky University, where he worked alongside Jack Harbaugh (and eventually became that school’s first African-American head coach, too), as well as a stint at Stanford University under Jack’s son, Jim, who’s now the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
At USF, Taggart, who is naturally cheerful and enthusiastic, has been readying his team to play “strong, smart football. We have to train them to do things the way we think is best for our team,” he says. “You win in the offseason.”
The Bulls may have gone 3-and-9 last year, but their new coach isn’t shying away from bold ambitions. His goal for this season? “To win a national championship,” he declares. “If you don’t believe it, it won’t happen.”
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