When your university’s name is Hamline and that school mascot is the Pipers, it is clear that there are going to be some tedious references to the mythical story that are going to be told over and over again. It may even be to the point where many are some are just numb to the tortured metaphors, therefore, one more won’t hurt.
The mythical tale is of rat-catcher who is hired to lead the rats of the city of Hamelin out of the town. He does so by playing a tune on his pipe that the rats are hypnotized by and follow. When he demands payment, the citizens refuse and, as a result, he leads the children away using the same means.
It is a rather odd tale that seems to have little to do with a college football team, but there is some relevance at Hamline University. There you will find a coach who is having an unbelievable effect on young man, however, his is not a negative one at all. Instead, his effect is to take young men, many of whom are leaving home for the first time, taking the trust that these men’s parents have given to him, and turning these college students into mature men who not only understand how to play football to a much higher degree but, more importantly, will be better men, husbands, fathers, and citizens because of the values and teachings that they have learned from their coach. That man is Hamline University Head Football Coach Charles “Chip” Taylor, Jr.
Born to Lead
Born in New Jersey, Coach Taylor knew early on that coaching was going to be a vocation in some way or another. Interestingly enough, his interest in the profession came at a time when he was unable to play because of an injury.
“When I broke my collarbone in the seventh grade I couldn’t play, so I wound up going to every practice and somehow that just got embedded as this is pretty cool seeing it from a different perspective.”
When he got to college he found himself admiring the manner in which his defensive backs coach instructed him and the other players. It showed him a side of coaching that he found intriguing and, from there, the interest grew.
“When I was in college I had a great defensive backs coach and I saw the way that he handled himself, the way he handled different players, and I thought this is really cool, and that it would be a great profession to get into.”
It was a natural fit for Chip Taylor to become a coach. He not only had a great work ethic, something that is required when you will spend 90-hours a week preparing for one three-hour event, but he also had a character that is perfect to lead young men and instill in them a great form of discipline and motivation. While many played a part in helping to instill those values in the Coach, the truth is that one person played the biggest role in helping him to be a great man of character – his dad.
“My dad was not a football coach but I would have to say my dad really inspired me just by the way he raised me. One of my strong suits is how I communicate with people. That’s one of the things I learned from my dad, how you communicate, how you treat people, your work ethic. You need to get up and go to work every day. I saw him work two jobs sometimes. It’s just a work ethic I really got from him. You need a work ethic in coaching and I got that from him.”
Building an Outstanding Resume
Taylor attended college at Illinois State where he starred for the Redbirds. In his four years at the school, he was a three-time letter winner and played on defense, offense, and special teams. The team made two post-season appearances in his time at the school.
Upon graduating, Coach Taylor continued his education by gaining a masters degree in Sports Administration from Valparaiso. He also found himself following his dream to be a coach, becoming the Wide Receivers coach at the school in 2003. In his time there the offense was one of the most prolific in all of college football, as his receiving corps caught more than 3,000-yards passing and 30-touchdowns in his first season.
In 2006, he moved to the other side of the ball, taking over as the defensive backs coach. In his first season, the team led the Pioneer Football League in interceptions with 17 and, in 2008, he became special teams coordinator, where his squad blocked five kicks, returning two blocked punts for touchdowns.
Coach Taylor would spend six of his first seven seasons in coaching at Valparaiso, where he was continually given greater responsibility. This culminated in him becoming the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2009.
For the next three seasons he would coach at Bucknell with the man who would become his head coach at Hamline – Chad Rogosheske. He spent three seasons there, serving as the special teams coordinator and, later, as the cornerbacks coach. In his first season in the latter role, the team led the Patriot League with just 78.2 yards per game allowed in passing.
In 2013, Rogosheske would become the head coach at Hamline, and he pegged Coach Taylor to be his defensive coordinator. In his three seasons in this role, the team continued to improve as a defensive unit, which included finishing third in both fumble recoveries and interceptions last season, and fourth in sacks. Almost as important, he helped the team grow in size, going from 51-players in 2013 to 74 in 2015.
At the end of the 2015 season, Coach Rogosheske took the head coaching job at Capital University, leaving a head coaching vacancy at the school. There was no doubt who would be the perfect fit to replace the former coach – Chip Taylor.
On March 14, 2016, he was named the Pipers new head coach and school President Fayneese Miller could not possibly have been happier about the decision.
“I am thrilled Coach Taylor accepted the position of head coach of the football program at Hamline. He knows our mission and vision, and is committed to excellence in the classroom and on the field for our players,” the Hamline President explained at the news conference naming Taylor as the Head Coach. “I have no doubt that, under his leadership and with the assistance of an impressive coaching staff, our football program will continue to move in a positive direction.”
Knowing What He Wanted to Accomplish
Chip Taylor had the benefit of being involved with some great programs that were led by amazing head coaches. He took the lessons he had learned from others and applied them to a philosophy that he wanted to build at Hamline. One where football is important, but where the lessons of life always take precedence.
“The way we’re defining my program here at Hamlin is not going to be on Saturdays. That’s what everybody goes to pay attention to – the scores. To me, we define success in our program as when we see our players and they are fathers, they’re husbands, and they’re doing good things in the community. They come back and they talk to our current players. That, to me, is how we judge our program.”
To accomplish this goal, he wants his players to grasp that what is going on at Hamline is much bigger than any one individual. His players are at the school not only to get a quality education, but they are there to learn to be good men as well. He wants them to see that Hamline University deserves their very best.
“What we talk about is you have to understand this is bigger than you. We have a brand here at Hamline that we’re trying to protect. They need to understand that everything that you do has an effect on somebody else. Obviously, if something happens there can be a consequence for the coach, but that’s also a direct reflection on the athletic director, a direct reflection upon the president, a direct reflection upon the Board of Trustees. So I am very transparent with my guys about what we’re doing so that they understand that what they’re doing affects a lot of different people. It’s not just themselves.”
A lot of coaches talk about the importance of character in their players but, when it is all said and done, winning is all that matters to them. They will take a few bad apples if it means a few more wins. Not Coach Taylor. He is developing a team that is an extension of his own character, and that means that he expects his players to act as he would.
“This is about helping young men to mature. I want men who play hard for 60-minutes and will give their all, but when they are away from football I want them to be men of character. I want them to grow into good fathers, good husbands, good citizens in society. If they aren’t that then I must be doing something wrong. That is my expectation and I made that clear from Day 1.”
Preparing His Players for the Future
Being a college student is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, and it can be even tougher at a school like Hamline, which is one of the most rigorous academic institutions in the country. The Coach gets that his students are going to struggle in their academic pursuits and may even fail, but he does not want them to look for excuses. Instead, he wants them to see that life is a challenge, and they need to overcome that challenge even if it seems that the odds are against them.
“I really want them to understand that life is not fair and there will be tough times, times when things are going to be going really high and there will be times where they are going really low. It’s how you react to those times that I want those guys to be cognizant of, and to understand that there’s not always going to be great times. But, and it’s great to understand this and appreciate it, when it’s going bad that’s when you have to come back to what you learned at Hamline. This is when you have to hold yourself accountable.”
Coaching gives Chip Taylor the perfect forum to teach these kinds of life lessons. It allows him to aid a young man in maturing into the kind of player and person that Hamline University stands for. This is the part he loves the most about coaching, and feels that this maturation begins with a focus on the basics.
“The best part of coaching for me is when you can take a kid and your coaching him and the light switch finally comes on. It may not even be something that is a football thing, although it’s a lot of fun with it is a football thing. But, more importantly, it’s great when they get something that you’re trying to teach them about a life lesson or a life skill. Why it’s important that you look a certain way, why please and thank you are important, and they get that and truly believe it.”
The light looks to be getting a lot brighter at Hamline University. Just one game into his head coaching career, the team had a decisive victory to start the 2016 season. It was a dominant offensive and defensive showcase that gives a lot of promise of what can be expected for the rest of the season and for years to come.
What also is to be expected is that young men will leave Hamline ready to become some of the most productive members that any college or university will produce. They will get an outstanding education to lead them into their chosen profession but, equally important, they will get a quality education on how to be a better man so that they can successfully navigate life. Coach Charles “Chip” Taylor, Jr. may not be playing a pipe, but there is no doubt that the tune he preaches is leading men to great things.
By Robert Pannier