When I heard the news that USF head coach Willie Taggart was heading to Eugene, Oregon to take over as the head coach for the Oregon Ducks, it made me think about how much has changed for me in the last four years, as I’m sure it’s changed for you as well.
Let’s start on December 7, 2012. USF hired Western Kentucky head coach Willie Taggart, coming off back-to-back 7-5 seasons and earning the school’s first trip to a bowl game.
This was my reaction:
Needless to say, I was fed up with how the former USF coach handled things and was ready for a change. In comes Taggart, a young, up-and-coming head coach that is #BayMade and knows the area well, it was only a matter of time before he turned things around, right?
It took all of one and half quarters into Taggart’s first game vs McNeese State to know he had a lot of work to do.
I was at Disney World for my girlfriend’s birthday the night of that game. She could tell I was pissed off the entire game. I ate my food in silence as I watched McNeese’s lead balloon to 33-7 at halftime. It didn’t take long for her to get upset that I was basically ruining her birthday, because I am not fun to be around when the Bulls are losing. I had to turn off my phone and pretend like nothing was wrong for the rest of the night.
I had only been dating my girlfriend for two months and she had never seen how I act during football season. I tried to warn her about it leading up to the season, but I don’t think she fully understood the emotion I put into watching this team.
That first year was unimaginably bad for the fans, the team, and Taggart. He was supposed to be our savior, the guy who would turn our program around and make us forget we ever hired that son of a bitch before him. Instead, the team went 2-10, and the offense was a tire fire running the “Power-I” without the proper players in place.
I always wanted to go to USF. It was my dream school. I had been attending games since 2000 and even made it into the “Junior Bulls Club” pamphlet as part of their football marketing campaign. I had the Grothe>Tebow shirt and wore it almost every day. I had the “Gro-Hawk” during that magical 2007 season. But, I couldn’t stomach watching those games any more.
Don’t get me wrong — every game day I’d still post the same Facebook status: “S-O-U-T-H F-L-O-R-I-D-A SOUTH FLORIDA SOUTH FLORIDA GOOO BULLS!!!” But I can admit this: I lost faith in the school and the program. Between 2013 and 2014 I watched maybe ten of the possible 24 games. I’d follow along on my phone and get updates but actually watching the game wasn’t a priority. I’m sure part of it was that I was in a new relationship and I wanted to make sure she knew I was there for her but it’s mostly about faith.
Faith is funny.
In November 2011, my mother went into the hospital with a perforated ulcer in her stomach. She had surgery to get it fixed and everything was fine. Until Thanksgiving, when my dad got a call saying that they had to put my mom in a medically induced coma because she wasn’t breathing properly on her own. She was in the coma for nearly two weeks. During this time, it was one of the only times in my life I ever prayed. I guess it’s true — people only talk to God when they something. She spent a month a rehabilitation facility to learn how to walk, talk and write all over again. We spent Christmas in the rehab facility, but she pushed through and was able to make it home for New Year’s.
Everything was fine until July 31 of last year. My mom went back to the hospital complaining of abdomen pains. She had eight feet of dead intestine removed and was discharged after a few days, a speedy recovery to say the least. She then went back into the hospital two more times for the same reasons, the last of which for some reason felt different to me. At times, she would have no idea where she was. She thought she was still living in Ireland and had to get ready for work. During this time, I threw myself back into USF football.
I watched every game, read all the news, and really started becoming a fan again. I was at Disney for my girlfriend’s birthday again, for the Florida A&M game. This time I was watching on my phone the whole night. I planned my Saturdays around the team for the first time in a while. I enjoyed watching Quinton Flowers and Marlon Mack. The team became my escape, and my girlfriend understood. We were at the 65-27 beat down of Cincinnati on senior night, my first game in a few years and her first game ever. Probably the best game I could’ve picked to start her off with USF.
On October 24, the day of the SMU game, my mother died. It was the most heart-breaking thing that has ever happened to me, and I wouldn’t wish that hurt on anyone, even you UCF fans. I struggle with it everyday knowing I can’t talk to her and tell her about my day. USF won that game 38-14, and this is probably a coincidence, but since that day, USF is 15-4. I’m convinced she was more excited that I got into USF than I was. Our last picture together is from May 1, 2015, the day I graduated from my dream school.
My life has changed immeasurably in the four years since Taggart took over. Not always for the best, but it has made me a stronger and better person. I’m expecting my first child in April (it’s a girl!!!) with my wonderful girlfriend. I became the “Injury guy” according to Taggart during my year covering USF football, so much so a USF staffer asked me if I had a gambling angle to why I always asked about injuries.
Through my darkest times, USF was there for me and I want to thank Coach Taggart for indirectly helping me through the toughest year of my life. Good luck at Oregon, and have a great day if you want to.