Lit only through a single window in the back of the room, the corner office of first-year Louisville offensive coordinator Lance Taylor is decked out with playing balls, photos and various football paraphernalia. The back wall is a whiteboard covered in Xs and Os after a conversation he had just had with a member of Cardinals’ support team.
Taylor’s desk is like that of any other soccer coach. But there’s also something unique about his room: a bright blue dream catcher mounted on the wall to the right of his desk.
It is a reminder of his legacy.
While his mother, Susan, is white, Taylor’s father, James Taylor, is too From the Choctaw tribe MOWA, on the Mobile-Washington County (MOWA) line in Alabama. Although the small group, consisting of about 300 within the tribal area, is not federally recognized, it has its own small community on a reservation.
Like many Native American groups in North America, much of Choctaw’s history has been lost due to the influences of Indian Removal Act 1830, which forcibly moved Native Americans from the Southeast to the Western Territory that is today Oklahoma. The tribe is working on restoring customs, traditions and language as best they can after nearly 200 years.
Meanwhile, Lance Taylor, believed to be Louisville’s first Native American football coach, will make his first appearance on the Cardinal Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Florida State.
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“Lance is overcoming levels of historical trauma and intergenerational trauma to be at that level of success, which he simply wouldn’t be able to navigate,” said Cedric Sunray, the Oklahoma education coordinator linked to Taylor by a common cousin. “When you have someone like Lance, just his presence, the acting he gives, it’s amazing and almost unheard of.”
“One thing I always try to do is be thankful and grateful for everything I’ve been given, in the past, but also stay hungry and motivated for the goals I’m still achieving,” Taylor said. “It’s certainly a humbling journey to look at where I come from and where I am today.”
Preserving the Choctaw Tradition
James Taylor knows the stories of his people.
His childhood in the fifties and sixties was filled with memories of his mother Inherited stories Trail of tears and its effects.
James said, “It’s been a long time since we’ve been hiding our heritage, and we don’t want to say who we are because of what could happen to us. We’ve lost a lot of things about our heritage, like speaking our mother tongue. We’ve gotten rid of a lot of the traditions we had and so on.. We are starting to learn some of our heritage.”
James attended the University of Alabama and played running for Crimson Tide. By the time his playing days were over, MOWA Choctaw was able to purchase land for reservation and became the first recognized Native American tribe in Alabama in 1979. James went back and built a house about 3 miles from the reservation where he and Susan raised their three children: Lance and Josh And Maria.
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Despite living in poor conditions, James made sure his family would participate in traditional PowWows and learn the history of the MOWA Choctaw. Maria, who was once a tribal princess, can speak Choctaw and learn traditional decorating and cooking skills.
Lance and his wife Jamie are now passing on Choctaw traditions to their children, Jett and Gemma, and have them registered on the Choctaw Tribal List that recognizes them as having Native American heritage. James and Susan have also put together videos about the Choctaw to show their grandchildren.
Lance Taylor said, “It’s always important to know where you come from. I think it’s our job as parents to show them their history and some of the cultural things we grew up in, but it’s up to them whether they want to embrace that…or pass that on to their children.” ”
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“Bama or Bust
Lance, a middle school student, proudly wore an auburn jacket around his father, a graduate of a competitive school in Alabama. James did not take the bait, and a few months later, Lance announced that he would bring Auburn.
James remembers saying to his son, “You can go to Auburn, and I will support you in Auburn.” “But any money I spend is going to Alabama.” For some reason, he did it for about a year and then he got out of it and decided he was going back to Alabama.”
While the Auburn stage ended, Lance, who was a loyalist at Citronelle High School, was addicted to soccer early in his life.
“He couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4 (years) old and was (either) a cowboy or a raider, but he got a bunch of shoulder pads and a T-shirt and a helmet for Christmas, and he went in on the intervention,” said Hazel Johnston, Taylor’s cousin who was breastfeeding him in Often when he was a kid, everything and everyone would play with him.” My uncle would go down with him on the floor in their living room and deal with him and wrestle. … (Taylor) was very competitive, and he was always a sports fanatic.”
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bayonet Walk like a broad future at the University of Alabama in 2000 and eventually won a scholarship. It gave him commonalities with his first coach Dabo Sweeney, now Clemson’s head coach. Sweeney also went from walking to scholarship player before becoming a coach. The two met when Lance came to camps in Alabama when he was a sophomore in high school, and introduced Sweeney to James’ playing days.
Sweeney realized that there was something different about Lance.
“He had the heart and the determination and the passion. You must have had some talent and he definitely had talent,” Sweeney said, “will, perseverance, faith—all of those things. He revealed these things definitely early on as I had the chance to get to know him.”
Lance continued to play football after college. His first tour was in Louisville as a member of the Louisville Fire Arena Football League team.
Once injuries piled up, training came calling.
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To be part of the team
The night before the Carolina Panthers’ Week 14 game against the New York Jets on December 15, 2013, coach Ron Rivera commissioned Lance Taylor to deliver a speech at dinner. Taylor, the wide reception assistant coach at the time, had just arrived in the Carolinas that season after spending the past three years with the Jets.
He was so nervous about giving the speech that almost nine years later, he couldn’t remember exactly what he said. It has earned him props from future Hall of Fame players like Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly.
“I probably touched on whatever coach Rivera was talking about that week, really trying to convey the message that he was sending the team, whatever it was at the time,” Taylor said. “And then I just tried to give them some insight into what I knew about the Jets’ mentality, what I knew (Jets coach) Rex Ryan was saying to his team, because I’ve been with these guys for three years and I know this locker room so well.”
the next day, The leopards beat the planes 30-20. Quarterback Cam Newton threw for 273 yards and touched down, Greg Olsen grabbed five balls for 88 yards and Dangelo Williams caught a TD pass and picked up an 87 yard and 81 fast yard pass. Taylor got the game ball, which now sits proudly next to the Jets game ball at the top of a drawer in his Louisville office.
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Taylor’s two spells with Carolina (2013, 2017-18) were among his favorites as a coach. He learned from Rivera, who is now coaching Washington leaders and is only Third ever Latin coach in the league.
“That was one of the things I learned from Coach Rivera and that is letting everyone in your organization feel part of the team and have a part or a part of what you do,” Taylor said. “This creates a buy-in from everyone.”
Taylor’s training journey includes time at Stanford in 2014-16, where he coached Heisman finalist and current Carolina Panther Christian McCaffrey before reuniting with the Panthers in 2017-18. Taylor joined Notre Dame in 2019 as a running coordinator and linebacker coach.
After the Irish coach Brian Kelly left for LSU In the offseason, Taylor came to Louisville. With two matches under his belt, his family and tribe are anxiously watching, proud of his journey already.
“For him to represent a little tribe in the middle of nowhere, Alabama, and for him to have this opportunity, I cannot even explain the pride I have now, and how proud I am of him,” said Johnston. I could be that one day. It fills you with such joy.”
Reach out to Louisville football, basketball, and women’s baseball and beat writer Alexis Cubitt at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at Alexis_Cubit.