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New Jackson State head coach T.C. Taylor: ‘There’s an expectation to win’

Former Tigers standout-turned-wide receivers coach succeeds Deion Sanders

Nearly two weeks after Jackson State University head coach Deion Sanders accepted a head coaching position at Colorado, Jackson State athletic director Ashley Robinson’s nationwide search to determine Sanders’ successor has led him to T.C. Taylor, the Tigers’ current wide receivers coach.

The promotion is a natural progression for Taylor, a McComb, Mississippi, native who was practically raised in Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium: He attended Jackson State games as a young fan, played for JSU from 1998 to 2001 and returned to the Tigers in 2019 as a position coach.

“God always told me I’ll have an opportunity to come back here and be a part of this program. But to have this opportunity to be the head coach and the guy up front leading the charge, it’s an unbelievable moment right now,” Taylor said. “I’m seriously still kind of taking [it] all in, but I am excited about it, geared up ready to go.”

Midway during the 2021 season, Sanders elevated Taylor to offensive coordinator. The Tigers finished the year with an 11-2 record, a Southwestern Athletic Conference championship and a Celebration Bowl berth. 

After announcing he was leaving during a team meeting following the SWAC championship, Sanders suggested his choice to replace him.

“My recommendation goes to T.C.,” Sanders said. “They know how I feel about T.C. I want T.C., and several of the staff members here will be retained. I would not be here if it weren’t for this man.”

Taylor wasn’t expecting Sanders to endorse him as successor on his way out and said he knows it made a difference in the hiring process.

“That meant a lot, but it’s just a testament to how hard I work on a day-to-day basis. I just go about my business on a day-to-day basis. I practice consistency, and I just know when he said that it didn’t go unnoticed,” Taylor said. “I was doing [everything] for the players on this football team in order for us to be better, so I appreciate it. I told him that.”

Taylor, who will be a first-time head coach, was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at North Carolina Central, where he helped guide the team to three consecutive Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championships (2014-16). He spent five seasons overall (2014-2018) as a member of the Eagles’ coaching staff under then-head coach Jerry Mack.

Mack played briefly with Taylor for Jackson State in 1999 before transferring elsewhere to finish his collegiate career. Mack, who is currently a running backs coach for the Tennessee Volunteers, has high expectations for Taylor.

“You’re talking about a guy [T.C. Taylor] who is loved in the Jackson State community because not only did he play at Jackson State but because he’s a Mississippi guy. He’s a legend in the state of Mississippi in his own right,” Mack said. “Anytime you have a chance to hire somebody that you basically raised — Jackson State, they raised T.C. and they developed him into the man he is — and for him to get a chance to run that program is a pretty cool deal. I’m excited for him. … He gets a chance to take over a championship-caliber team.”

Though he won’t be the head coach of the Tigers in this year’s Cricket Celebration Bowl – Sanders will finish out the season with the team – Taylor remains focused on helping Jackson State earn its first Celebration Bowl title. Once the game ends, Taylor’s focus will shift to adding to the coaching staff and continuing to recruit ahead of the early football signing period Dec. 21-23.

“I got a few guys lined up that I’m excited about. I can’t really talk to them till we get pen to paper. But I make sure we get the right coaches in here to mentor, lead and execute the X’s and O’s for these young men,” Taylor said. “The main thing, though, is recruiting. We got to continue to recruit the big-time athletes, because there was a difference in being 13-0 and 7-6. So right now, we’re gonna hit the ground Sunday, get back in here, start doing some recruiting, try to set up some visits and try to keep this thing going in the right direction.”

Taylor said he doesn’t feel any pressure in succeeding Pro Football Hall of Famer Sanders; despite the coaching change, Jackson State’s expectations – and Taylor’s – remain the same.

“The thing about Jackson State is there’s an expectation to win,” Taylor said. “That’s one thing I remember coming up as a fan and as a player here. There’s an expectation to win, and that’s the type of football players we want on the field every day – guys that understand, want to bleed the blue, protect the block and guard the yard.”

Mia Berry is the senior HBCU writer for Andscape and covers everything from sports to student-led protests. She is a Detroit native (What up Doe!), long-suffering Detroit sports fan and Notre Dame alumna who randomly shouts, "Go Irish."