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July 25, 2011Before Trooper Taylor became the assistant head coach/receivers coach at Auburn early in 2009, he didn't know much about the Tigers.
"I just knew that they played great defense," said Taylor.
He didn't know about the history, the traditions or the passion of the fans. He had not seen much of the campus, any of the community or met many of the people.
"My perception was that Auburn was country, that they all drove big trucks and chewed tobacco," he said.
After spending the past two-and-a-half years in Auburn, Taylor's perception has changed.
"I was wrong," he said. "Dead wrong."
He now knows the history, loves the traditions and feeds off the fans. He and his family have become part of the community.
"Auburn is a great place with even better people," said Taylor. "The people at Auburn make all the difference in the world. At most places, people tell you, 'Have a good day.' At Auburn, people ask, 'How was your day?' because they really care, because they really want to know how you are doing. They care.
"It's a great place to raise a family. It's a great place to go to college. It's a great place to come and focus on your academics and athletics."
And it is those reasons Taylor said he doesn't see himself coaching anywhere else for "a long, long time."
"It will be tough to get me out of here," said Taylor. "Auburn is a special place and it's going to be very hard for me to find something that is better.
"People say to 'keep up with the Joneses'. I feel like I'm with 'the Joneses'."
Before accepting the assistant head coach/receivers coach job at Auburn, Taylor was the co-offensive coordinator/receivers coach at Oklahoma State for one year. Prior to that, Taylor coached at Tennessee from 2004-07 as running backs coach ('04-'05) and assistant head coach/player development/receivers coach ('05-'07), spent five years coaching receivers at Tulane, was running backs coach at New Mexico for a year and coached the secondary and receivers at his alma mater, Baylor, from 1992-97.
Like many assistants, Taylor has the desire to continue climbing the coaching ladder, and opportunities have presented themselves for him to do so. They just haven't been the right opportunities.
"I have had some opportunities to leave, but chose to stay," said Taylor. "I don't have any intentions of leaving Auburn whatsoever. It would have to be a very, very special place to make me leave because the relationships I have built with the players, the people, the administration and the coaches."
Especially head coach Gene Chizik.
"When I took this job, Coach Chizik said he wanted one assistant head coach, he said he wanted to make this job the best job assistants ever had, a job assistants would not want to leave, and he has stayed true to those statements," said Taylor. "It will have to be a very special job for me to leave Auburn."
Recruiting at Auburn
Taylor is widely regarded as one of the nation's best recruiters. Rivals.com named him one of the top 25 recruiters four times in the last seven years. Two of those, 2010 and 2011, were while he was at Auburn. The Tigers finished with two of its highest-rated classes those years.
Auburn, Taylor said, makes recruiting easier for him. That includes having Chizik and the other Tiger coaches on his side.
"A lot of guys take time in the home with a recruit to talk about other coaches that aren't on their staff," Taylor said. "One thing I know that no other school has in the country is Gene Chizik. Nobody else has a Gus Malzahn. Nobody has a Ted Roof.
"I know all of those guys. That is what I want to make sure I sell every time. I take the things that we have that are different than anyone else and sell those things to the kids and parents."
The parents, Taylor said, need to feel comfortable in their child's college decision. They need to know, be confident, that they are sending their child away to college in good hands.
"I understand the most precious gifts anybody has are their children," he said. "When I have an opportunity to deal with someone else's son, I want to treat them just like my own.
"I want parents to know that when they lay down at night, they have turned their son over to the right person."
And then there is the recruit. Taylor doesn't look at the relationship between the two as recruit-coach, or even player-coach once the recruit arrives. He views it as much more than that.
"My relationship isn't for just the 3-4 years they are here," he said. "I want it to be about the next 40. When they get married, I want an invitation to their wedding. When they make a big play in the League, or get a big promotion at work, I want a text message or email from them saying, 'Hey coach, this is what happened to me at work today.' Or 'Hey Coach, did you see that catch I made?' When they have their first son or daughter, I want to know.
"I want the relationships to last a lifetime."
The Most Recognizable Assistant in College Football
Taylor's reputation as a recruiter and coach has spread nationwide, and according to some, made him the most recognizable assistant coach in college football.
It may have something to do with his unconventional style.
Taylor wears his hat backwards. He can be seen on the sidelines during games giving congratulatory chest-bumps and high-fives to players. He waves his towel in the air to rile the fans. He has the ability to relate to the younger generation and is best known by them as "Troop" or "Coach Troop".
Simply put, he's cool, which makes him more recognizable, not only by fans, but recruits.
"When you chest bump players, swing the towel, you are going to get attention," he said. "I understand that. But you know what, when I walk in those homes, those kids and parents already know 'Troop'. When I walk in that high school, a lot of the kids already know 'Troop'. It helps out a bunch."
Except when his wife Evi needs him to go to the store for milk.
"That takes about an hour now," said Taylor. "It used to be that as long as I didn't have my hat on backwards, nobody would know who I was when I went to the store, but not anymore. I get people, fans, coming up to me all the time."
He doesn't shy away when they do. He loves Auburn, and its fans.
"When they come up to me and say, 'Oh, I apologize for bothering you', I always tell them not to apologize for being passionate," said Taylor. "They aren't bothering me.
"At Auburn, we are all on the same team. We are all family. It's all about the Auburn Family, and I plan on being a part of it for a very long time. They will have to dynamite me out of here."