Willie Taggart’s Son Inspired FAU’s Head Coach to Implement Social Changes

Florida Atlantic head football coach Willie Taggart watched protests across the country after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in May.

It wasn’t until Taggart’s son, Willie Jr., shared his thoughts on ongoing events that FAU’s first-year head coach sprung into action.

While the fate of the 2020 college football season remains unknown, the changes Taggart implemented within his football team are ones which could have a lasting impact.

Willie Taggart is entering his first season at Florida Atlantic

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When Lane Kiffin took the Ole Miss coaching job in December, Florida Atlantic quickly hired Taggart — recently of Florida State — as the program’s seventh head coach.

Taggart had holes to fill on a team that won two Conference USA titles in three seasons. The offensive line lost two starters and many defensive stalwarts either graduated or, in Steelers rookie James Pierre’s case, declared for the NFL draft.

That all is tame compared to the coronavirus pandemic. Florida Atlantic canceled spring football before a single practice under Taggart.

Returning players returned to campus June 8. New players, including freshmen who hadn’t already enrolled, arrived June 22.

FAU tested all players for the coronavirus. There was not a single positive test through the first two weeks, according to a university spokesperson.

Players are now tested when they arrive on campus each day. FAU will tentatively begin its first season under Taggart on Sept. 3 at Minnesota.

His son, Willie Jr., is a freshman quarterback at FAU

Florida Atlantic head coach Willie Taggart gave his team his blessing to speak out and participate in any type of protests.
Florida Atlantic head coach Willie Taggart gave his team his blessing to speak out and participate in any type of protests. | Mark Brown/Getty Images

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Many college teams try adding at least one quarterback in their yearly recruiting class. Willie Taggart didn’t need to go far to find his new gunslinger.

Taggart’s oldest son, Willie Jr. signed with FAU in February. Taggart Jr. threw 20 touchdowns and ran for another 10 at Florida State University High last fall.

The younger Taggart held reported offers from Florida State — his father’s previous school — and Appalachian State.

Taggart Sr. compared his son to Ravens star and NFL MVP Lamar Jackson on signing day. The comparison came when Taggart Sr. was asked if his son would play running back or receiver at FAU.

“I think if you asked Willie Jr. that, he’s gonna tell you, kind of like Lamar Jackson told everybody else: I’m a quarterback.”

The 6-foot-2 Taggart Jr. is expected to take a redshirt this season.

Willie Taggart implemented social changes within his team

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When protests began across the country last month after George Floyd died in police custody, Willie Taggart Jr. approached his father with a question.

The younger Taggart wanted to know if his father — and now, coach — would be upset if Willie Jr. protested.

Taggart Sr. told his son that he wouldn’t be upset because he wanted Willie Jr. to “stand up for what he believed in.”

That conversation led to a Zoom meeting between Taggart and his team. The group discussed ongoing events and, Taggart said, showed him the team he inherited from Kiffin.

“It was one of the best team meetings Iโ€™ve had as a football coach. It showed we have some special young men, leaders, on this football team.โ€

Taggart implemented the ‘Real Life Wednesday’ program. The team meets and discusses topics that go beyond tackling skills or what play to call at the 5-yard line.

FAU players registered to vote on June 10, two days after players returned to campus.

FAU is located in Boca Raton, Fla. The city’s mayor, Scott Singer, spoke with the Owls on June 17.

Taggart said he hopes the team will speak with other elected officials soon. The chief of FAU’s on-campus police department, Sean Brammer, will address players in the coming weeks.

If and when there is a 2020 college football season, the ‘Real Life Wednesday’ program will continue each week. Taggart said he wants his players educated on civics and aware of ongoing events.