MANATEE COUNTY - After the two disappointing seasons under Skip Holtz, the University of South Florida brought in the local kid to help get the program up and running again. Willie Taggart returned to his roots on the Suncoast Monday as he prepares for his first season as Bulls head coach.
Taggart was hired as head football coach of USF back in December, but that enthusiasm has not waned, nor has the infectious smile still has yet to leave his face. "It’s great for me. I think I have the best job in America. It’s not often that you get to meet new people every year and change a life every year. It’s exciting to do it, and it’s very exciting to do it here at home."
The Palmetto native was welcomed back to the Suncoast as over 300 guests went to see him at the Bradenton Area Convention Center. The man who won a state title playing for the Manatee Hurricanes back in 1993 now has his sights set on a national title. "It motivates you every morning to get up. Especially when you see all of these people here to support you and that have your back. You want to go out and keep them that way and do good for your community. "
Taggart won that state title with ‘Canes coach Joe Kinnan, then he won a National D-1AA title at Western Kentucky under Jack Harbaugh before coaching under him, and then replacing him. Taggart also assisted Jim Harbaugh when he was coaching Stanford.
A lot of lessons were learned from his coaches. "Just the organization and the accountability and discipline that Coach Kinnan brought to all of us. It’s not by chance that he wins championships often. He's a winner and he taught his players how to be winners. But more importantly, he taught us how to be accountable, how to be young men. A lot of the things I did at Manatee we are doing here at South Florida."
Taggart also has begun to cultivate talent from the Suncoast. Many felt that this area was overlooked by Skip Holtz, even though it was right under his nose. "This is my neck of the woods. This is where I was born and raised. I know what kind of football players are here. I know what kind of competitors are here. It is my way of giving back."