Former Scotland County R-I football coach Ron Taylor passed away last week in Arizona after losing his battle with lung cancer. It proved to be one of the few defeats on Taylor’s impressive record.
“Everywhere he went he was a winner,” said former SCR-I player Jason Emel who went on to play under coach Taylor at Quincy University.
Taylor coached the SCR-I football program from 1988-1990, leading the team to a state playoff berth.
“He was a hard-nosed, old style coach that demanded a lot of his players,” Emel said. “That can rub some people the wrong way, but if you gave coach Taylor 100% he did the same for you.”
While the Tigers experienced success on the field during Taylor’s tenure, he may have created the biggest stir in the community with a little bit of off the field drama – theatrical drama generated by his actor brother Josh Taylor of soap opera fame Days of Our Lives. Coach Taylor was able to bring his famous brother to Memphis to serve as the grand marshal of the homecoming Parade to the thrill of many young ladies who admired the heart throb actor who played Roman Brady on the popular daytime program.
Taylor moved on from Memphis to serve as offensive coordinator at Quincy University before being named the college’s head coach in 1993. All he did that year was lead the team to a perfect 9-0 finish and a #1 national ranking. Taylor had to settle for a #2 ranking the following season before ending his tenure at QU the following year to move on to a new position.
The Chillicothe, IL native saw success on the field far before his impressive career on the sidelines. He earned all state honors as the quarterback for the Chillicothe Peoria High School team led by his father, Illinois Hall of Fame Coach George Taylor.
Ron went on to quarterback for the University of Missouri during two of the most successful years in the school’s history. He was under center when the school won its first ever bowl game, a 1960 Orange Bowl title over Navy when Mizzou finished with a top 10 national ranking.
Taylor worked as an assistant coach at Missouri following graduation and filled similar roles at the universities of Utah and Colorado.
He returned to northeast Missouri in 1975 to take the reins of Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman State) in Kirksville. He racked up the wins in his four years at the helm, finishing with a 26-14-2 mark, leading the Bulldogs to a share of the conference championship in 1976.
“He was a brilliant offensive mind,” said former Tigers coach Dave Shalley who took over for Taylor at SCR-I in 1991.
Shalley, who was actually recruited by Taylor to play for him at NMSU in Kirksville, served as an assistant coach at SCR-I in Taylor’s first season.
“I learned a lot from Ron, even if it was sometimes difficult to do,” Shalley said, explaining Taylor’s tendency to diagram plays on the chalkboard only to quickly erase them and make the necessary adjustments he had already mapped out in his head.
“You really had to pick his brain for the details because he was always one step ahead, being able to work through problems and make adjustments on the fly.”
Shalley said he lost track of Taylor after he left NMSU, believing he got out of football for a while, tending to a family farm business somewhere near Athens before returning to teaching in Revere and possibly Clark County before taking over at SCR-I.
Taylor passed on his success to his players, coaching several collegiate and professional players during his time in the sport. 1989 SCR-I graduate Ross Setters went on to one of the most successful football careers for a Scotland County alum, playing at LSU before playing professionally in Canada and in the arena football league.
Success seemed to follow Taylor wherever he went on the football field, a fact Shalley attributed to his competitive spirit.
“It didn’t matter if it was on the football field or if we were having a little fun golfing,” said Shalley, “Ron was very competitive. He’d even get mad when we went bird hunting if anyone shot more birds than him. The man did not like to lose.”