Thu, 15 Nov 2018

Emotional Taggart set for dream job with Florida State

Sports Xchange
07 Dec 2017, 05:54 GMT+10

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- As Willie Taggart sat in his home Monday night, weighing the offer with his wife from Florida State to leave Oregon and become the Seminoles' next head football coach, in walked his 16-year-old son, Willie Taggart Jr., with a piece of advice for his dad.

"He said to me ... and I'm sorry if I get a little emotional here, folks," Taggart said Wednesday, wiping away tears. "He said, 'Dad, you've always told me to chase my dreams. Well, I don't want to leave (Oregon), but if this is your dream, then I'm gonna ride with you.' "

Forty-eight hours later, Taggart's dream became a reality.

The 41-year-old Taggart was formally introduced as the new leader of the Seminoles on Wednesday during a press conference at Doak Campbell Stadium. Florida State lost former head coach Jimbo Fisher last Thursday to the head coaching vacancy at Texas AM after he spent eight years at the helm.

Following Fisher's abrupt departure, it took less than a week for Florida State to find its man. Florida State athletic director Stan Wilcox said Wednesday that he knew right away that Taggart was the one they wanted for the job.

"When (Willie) told me, 'This is my dream job,' that sealed it for me," Wilcox said of Taggart, a Bradenton, Fla., native who grew up as a Seminoles fan. "I knew we had found our guy."

Taggart, who has amassed a 47-50 record in three head coaching stops before Florida State, becomes the school's 10th head coach in history. Taggart, however, is just the third Florida State head coach since 1976, which was the first season for former Seminoles coaching legend Bobby Bowden.

Taggart's previous head coaching stints came at Western Kentucky, South Florida and Oregon, where he spent just one season and went 7-5 this year before accepting the job at Florida State.

He said Wednesday that when he got the call about Florida State's interest, it was a "dream come true" for him.

"If you live in the state. If you're born and raised here, it's hard not to grow up a 'Nole," Taggart said. "That's what it was like in Bradenton. We watched the 'Noles. We watched the 'Noles first, then everyone else."

Florida State went 6-6 this year -- its worst record during the Fisher era -- and barely made a bowl game, winning its final three games of the season just to finish with a .500 record. The Seminoles will play Dec. 27 against Southern Miss in the Independence Bowl, where interim head coach Odell Haggins will coach the team.

Taggart didn't announce any assistant coaching hires Wednesday, but he did say the evaluation of the current Florida State staff will begin immediately. He also said he doesn't see Florida State's 6-6 year as a sign it's in a rebuilding phase -- but rather a "realignment."

"This is not a rebuild, it's a realignment. It is exciting to know we have really good players here. We want to bring people together to win championships," Taggart said. "We're not going to blame anyone. We're not going to make excuses. We're going to go out and do something (about it)."

Prior to going into coaching, Taggart was a quarterback at Western Kentucky, where his head coach was the legendary Jack Harbaugh -- father of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. Taggart finished his college career as a Walter Payton Award finalist twice and eventually became one of only four players in Western Kentucky history to have his jersey retired.

Taggart ended his first meeting with the Florida State media and fans by apologizing to Oregon fans, while also explaining why he just couldn't say no to Florida State.

"I apologized (to everyone at Oregon) before I left. I know I let them down. I feel bad about that," Taggart said. "But this job was a dream for me. And you have to be from Florida to really understand. I wanted to come up and play here, but I wasn't good enough. But no matter where I went, the Seminoles were still always a part of me."

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