After His Wildly Successful Football Coaching Career Took More Than One Unexpected Twist Last Spring, Casey Taylor Eagerly Waits To Begin Building Another Champion On A New Campus •
Back in March, Casey Taylor was enjoying a change of scenery and entering a new phase of his life.
The longtime Sacramento-area football coach was on a surprise trip to celebrate a milestone in his life. He was turning the Big 5-0. He was with his wife and friends in Arizona for Spring Training. Taylor believed the change of getting older was normal and that he could take it in stride.
That trip turned out to be the last “normal” thing happening in his routine of family, football and friends. Taylor was ready to ramp up his preparation for the 2020 high school football season in what was going to be his fourth year at the helm of the Capital Christian School’s program when he returned to campus after Spring Break.
But COVID-19 became a pandemic and states, including California, issued shelter-in-place orders as the world seemingly changed in an instant. Then, Taylor received a telephone call that further changed his world.
Capital Christian administration notified its varsity football coach and physical education teacher he was being let go. It was part of cuts the school was making in response to COVID-19’s school and business closures.
“We all thought that we would be going back to school after Easter, and then I get the call that Friday is your last paycheck,” Casey Taylor said during a two hour-long chat in his man cave-converted garage on Oct. 22 at his home in Rocklin. “That’s kind of sobering.”
Fortunately for Taylor, there were area head coach openings, and he got to work on finding new employment. After just a few days, it was evident to Taylor that he could soon be leading a new group of young men on the football field … or at least on Zoom calls.
“I was very grateful that there were some job openings,” he said. “I thought that there was a job out there for me. But things were strange with COVID and I wasn’t sure if anyone could really hire anyone right away.”
Quickly, an opening arose at Inderkum with the departure of Terry Stark, the program’s only head coach in its short history.
“Inderkum was outstanding,” Taylor said of the opportunity and the process. “We took the family down to the campus and checked it out. Terry (Stark) has done a great job and I know a lot of people down there and thought it was a good fit.”
Just as the world was adjusting to its “new normal,” Taylor would also start learning his own. Not just for life at Inderkum. He also faces the same challenges as every California high school football coach is during this pandemic.
The move to the Natomas Unified School District and Inderkum was Taylor’s second change of scenery in four years. In January 2017, the coach made a somewhat surprising move. He left Del Oro-Loomis to take over the program at Capital Christian where he won three league titles and a 2018 Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship. The future was bright for the Cougars. Taylor was excited about the strides made by the team on the field and in the community.
With every change of location Taylor has made, he has always stuck to his roots in regards to how he coaches.
“For me, it’s all about family,” Taylor said of including his own family and of making his players and community part of a larger one. “We strive to get our family involved and establish relationships with the kids.
“It’s important for them to see my family. We need people to see us all in before we can expect them to be all in for us.”
Football and family have always gone together for Taylor. It even played a role in landing his first official coaching job. After years of coaching youth teams, coaching Powder Puff games, and giving pointers to his younger brothers, Taylor was given a chance at his alma mater, Oak Ridge High in El Dorado Hills. He was hired to join the junior varsity staff.
“I was finishing up at Chico State, and my brother was at Oak Ridge so I went back and worked with him,” Taylor said. “I got to know the head coach Mark Watson a little bit, and he said that when I was done he had a spot for me.”
Upon graduation from college in 1993, Taylor started a career in coaching that saw stops at Oak Ridge and Rocklin before getting his big break with Del Oro. The Golden Eagles were seeking a new head coach in 2002. Taylor was one of several viable candidates for the job.
“During the interview, I told them ‘You can hire me, or I can go back to Rocklin and beat you guys for years,’” he said. “I wanted them to think that they might later think ‘Yeah, we really should have hired that guy.’”
Del Oro Athletic Director Dan Gallardo hired Taylor, who would benefit from the guidance and support of Golden Eagles coaching legends Larry Wyatt, Bob Christensen and John Fletcher. That trio, along with Taylor’s first college coach, Vic Rowen of San Francisco State, each shaped the young Casey Taylor into what he is today.
It’s lessons learned from those coaches that can be credited for Taylor’s success — as well as his ability to take his most recent transition with grace and enthusiasm.
Taylor and his staff cannot regularly interact face-to-face with all 140 players in the Inderkum program — like most area teams — and cannot touch a football or put on pads yet. Despite it all, the coach remains excited by the prospect of building on the Tigers’ successes.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what we’re all about,” Taylor said. “They (Terry Stark and his staff) have done a tremendous job. They have won a lot of games and been to four section finals, but never quite got over that hump.”
“They’re close, so I hope that I can bring in something to help get them get a title.”
But racking up wins and collecting section banners is not Taylor’s primary goal in taking over the Inderkum program.
“It’s about the kids,” Taylor said. “The reason that I got into education and coaching is for the kids. It’s about the relationships with the kids and giving them life experiences.”
Wins would be nice, but action items on Taylor’s list include engaging the players and their families, building community and student support for the program, and character development. While some might see fencing around the football field, Taylor sees branding opportunities. Student sections, a fight song, and player community outreach are tried and true models Taylor has implemented at each of his coaching stops.
Of course, he understands success on the field is still expected, especially from a program with 14 consecutive 10-win seasons.
“I know how to do it,” he said. “I hope that with a few tweaks and getting to know the kids, we will have an opportunity to get that section title. The talent is there, so I hope that we can give the kids that opportunity to win one.”
In addition to the challenges that COVID-19 poses, the Tigers are starting fresh in more ways than just having a new head coach. Inderkum graduated a wealth of talent and a majority of the starters on both sides of the ball.
The offense will be a question mark heading into the season. No underclassmen caught a single pass in 2019, and seniors accounted for 3,617 of 3,706 rushing yards. 2019 sophomore Vincent Wright was the biggest underclassman contributor to the offense with 91 all-purpose yards.
“They were very senior-dominated last year, so there are a lot of new faces,” Taylor said. “We are very young, but we have a lot of speed, and these kids are expecting to do new things.”
Taylor will replace Stark’s vaunted Wing-T offense with his power running attack mixed with downfield shots. On the other side of the ball, though, Inderkum’s speed will still be its key to success.
Senior defensive lineman Jalen “J.J.” Bryant is the top returner on defense. He tallied 88 tackles and 7.5 sacks in the Tigers’ last season. Senior defensive end Joshua Trezfant added 51 tackles and five sacks. Joey Rogers and Amir Lemmons — both seniors — combined for 123 tackles.
Another Taylor trademark heading down the hill to Inderkum will be a challenging nonleague slate. The Tigers will face Elk Grove, Del Oro, Jesuit-Carmichael, and Cardinal Newman-Santa Rosa before starting league play.
“There’s always pressure to win,” Taylor admitted. “I feel like I have had a lot of success in my career, so I’m not concerned about winning games.
“To me, it’s not about the number of wins you have every year. To me it’s about finding the best version of your team. My goal is to always have my team playing the best in the section finals.”
The road to the section finals may be difficult, especially with a new coach, new offense, and the long layoff. But, you can bet Casey Taylor is ready to pack up the whole family — his own family and the extended Tigers’ football family — and enjoy the ride.
Because you never know where the road might take you next.