Troy Taylor is heading back to college.
He will pack bare necessities as he tackles a new adventure in unfamiliar grounds in the Pacific Northwest. He’ll haul some books, a laptop, perhaps even a football. But not Ben, the Golden Retriever puppy Taylor surprised his kids with for Christmas.
“No, the dog stays,” Taylor said with a laugh, adding, “if there was a family vote on who goes and who stays, Ben wins hands down.”
Truthfully, there are many people – family, friends, students – in Folsom bummed to see Taylor go.
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Early next month, Taylor will leave Folsom High School, where as an innovative co-head coach he helped lead the Bulldogs to five section titles, and head to Eastern Washington, a Football Championship Subdivision powerhouse. In Cheney, Taylor will be the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Big Sky Conference program that lists Sacramento State and UC Davis as league opponents.
Taylor is graduating from the spread-offense of Folsom to a very similar look in college, just bigger, faster and more complex. Taylor isn’t leaving because he was restless at Folsom, or bored with going 14-1 or 16-0 each season.
He’s leaving because Eastern Washington came calling, and he deemed it an opportunity too grand to pass up. This new marriage started through a strong reference by Washington Huskies coach Chris Petersen to Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin.
For years, Petersen has admired Taylor’s ability to teach the game, coach the game and mold players. Washington’s quarterback last season was freshman Jake Browning of Folsom High School. Baldwin visited Taylor at Folsom, and then Taylor spent several days in Cheney with the coaching staff. It all clicked.
“I wanted a new challenge, needed a new challenge,” Taylor said. “I’ve been at Folsom for 14 years. It’s been incredibly rewarding. I came in thinking I had coaching figured out, but I really learned so much more. Some great years here, special. Great people, great kids and experiences. Eastern Washington is a nice, unique fit. All the boxes checked off.”
Taylor’s wife, Tracey, and their three young children will head to Cheney after the academic year. Taylor, upon setting up shop at Eastern Washington, will immerse himself in all things football. He’ll get to know the team, study film, implement new ideas and schemes. It’ll be Football 101 year-round. He’ll also recruit, perhaps mining Northern California for nuggets.
“It’s an incredible program,” Taylor said of the Eagles. “They’re not trying to get their feet under them. It’s established, and it’s an honor. I was really impressed with their coaches, a great staff, a lot of humility, a desire to get better.”
Baldwin cannot talk about Taylor until the new coach arrives on campus, the school said. But others spoke highly of Taylor.
“I think he’ll do great there,” said Browning, who speaks to his mentor and friend regularly. “He’s so much more prepared than other coaches, the amount of time he puts in, what he sees and knows. He brings a unique perspective to the game. He’s been offered jobs before but turned them down. This is a good fit.”
Taylor has experienced college before, of course. After winning Bee Player of the Year honors at Cordova in 1985, Taylor set passing records at Cal. He dabbled in assistant coaching gigs at Colorado and Cal in the 1990s, then settled at Folsom to raise a family and groom a program. Working alongside co-coach Kris Richardson, a close friend, Folsom went 58-3 since 2012 with four Sac-Joaquin Section championships and the CIF State Division I title in 2014.
“Troy has the greatest offensive mind of any coach I’ve known,” Richardson said. “Not a doubt in my mind that he’ll be successful at Eastern Washington. He’s a special guy, a great coach, and when he asked me about that job, I told him he needs to take it. We’ll miss him, but we couldn’t be happier.
“I’m not losing a great friend. He’s just farther away. I know I’ll root for my buddy, and he’ll be rooting for us.”