Pirates need to win for reasons bigger than Taylor

By Shemar Woods

Opinions from the stands at Armstrong Stadium will vary when the Pirates take the field Saturday afternoon.

Those directing their magnifying glasses at Hampton University’s football program might see this weekend’s game against former head coach Joe Taylor, now at Florida A&M University, as a prime opportunity to exact revenge on a former leader.

The Pirates see the 1 p.m. matchup from a different light.

“It’s nothing personal, but it’s business,” coach Donovan Rose said during Wednesday’s news conference. “We are going to do whatever we have to in order to win.”

In 16 years at Hampton, Taylor became the Pirates winningest coach, compiling a career record of 136-49-1 and leading the Pirates to five Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championships. Plaques hanging in the program’s football offices tout Taylor’s legacy, but most of the current Pirates players are focused on the present.

“There are a lot of players on the team who really didn’t know Taylor. It’s really 50-50,” Rose said. “Myself, as well as some of the players will probably exchange words after the game.”

Hampton hopes the result is a “W” in the win column.

Struggling to find consistency all season, the Pirates (4-5, 2-4 MEAC) need to win their last two games against Florida A&M and Morgan State to finish above .500.

All-American punter Jahmal Blanchard, a four-year starter, has never finished the season with a losing record.

“We don’t want to be remembered as the team finishing under .500,” said Blanchard, a senior who has a MEAC-best 56.8 yard punting average this year. “We are just working hard every day in practice and pushing each other to win these last games.”

And while the season has not played out the way Rose expected, Taylor stands in the way of a winning record.

From 1992 to 2007, Taylor and Rose developed a special relationship. When Taylor took over the Hampton program in 1992, Rose was the only coach who remained from the previous regime. For 16 years, Rose studied under Taylor.

Taylor moved on to Florida A&M, and Rose received Hampton’s head coaching position at the end of January. The two remain very close, and the Hampton-graduate incorporated a few of his mentor’s techniques this season.

“I took his discipline and leadership,” said Rose, who also noted that he knew Taylor’s children. “He’s doing a great job at Florida A&M.”

While Rose still admires his former boss, he will only stay on the topic for so long, quickly jumping back to the task at hand:

“It’s all about who prepares the best. I wish him well.”

The writer is a junior at Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications