|Willie Taggart with the key to the City of Palmetto. (Herald photo by Jim Jones)|
Work hard, don't forget where you came from, never get complacent.
This prescription for success sounds as corny as an Iowa farm field, doesn't it?
Except when somebody like Willie Taggart, the new head football coach for the University of South Florida says it.
Taggart came home to Palmetto this week, and brought along most of his USF coaching staff.
The occasion was a rousing reception at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, where more than 300 hometown folks turned out to greet and cheer this hometown hero. Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant was there, too, to present him with the key to the city.
Taggart, who came from one of Palmetto's toughest neighborhoods, always had a dream to be someone, and a strong family encouraging him.
His story has a special resonance for Palmetto and Bradenton, but all of Manatee County can share the pride for what Taggart has achieved.
He thought he might play in the National Football League, but when that didn't materialize, he went into college coaching with great success.
That's a lesson for kids in Manatee County neighborhoods who hope to play pro sports. It's the rare person who makes a pro team, but fortunately there are many other routes to success.
Willie Taggart never forgot where he came from. Monday, he praised Manatee High School, where he played quarterback, as the best high school in the land. He paid tribute to his old high school coach, Joe Kinnan, and his high school team mates. He also paid tribute to Palmetto, and proudly showed his coaches where he grew up.
And he asked the home folks to support USF.
"I challenge everyone to get five new season ticket holders. If you can't get five, get two. If you can only get one, I'll be happy," he told the crowd, filled with USF alums.
His goal: to heat up on the football field, and to fill the stands with rabid fans in Tampa.
By any standard, Willie Taggart is a success, but he'll be the first to tell you that he's not standing still. His goal is to become a better coach, a better person, and to achieve more.
One of my favorite moments from the hometown reception actually occurred after it was all over. That's when Taggart embraced his wife and children, and spent time with friends who gathered around him. And there was a 9th grader from Manatee High School there, too. His name was Blake Green. I couldn't tell what Taggart was saying to him, but he had his hand on his shoulder, and I'm pretty sure those were words of encouragement that he was giving to Blake.
For more, see Alan Dell's story.
|Willie Taggart with 9th grader Blake Green. (Herald photo by Jim Jones)|