- "Every man at some point in his life is gonna lose a battle. He's gonna fight and he's gonna lose. But what makes him a man is that in the midst of that battle, he does not lose himself."
- -Eric Taylor, State
Eric Taylor is the head football coach of the Pemberton Pioneers in Philadelphia, PA and former head coach of the Dillon Panthers and East Dillon Lions. Considered one of the greatest high school coaches in the history of Texas, Taylor led both the Panthers and the Lions to state championships in 2006 and 2010, respectively.
Prior to the start of the 2005-2006 season, Taylor was promoted from QB coach to head coach. Many locals, including the voice of Panther football Slammin' Sammy Meade, suspected Taylor only got the promotion over longtime offensive coordinator Mac McGill because of Eric's relationship with star quarterback Jason Street. Taylor had been Street's personal QB coach since the quarterback's pee wee days and developed him into an All-American quarterback. Along with Street, Taylor commanded one of the most talented Panther teams in recent memory which included record-setting junior tailback Smash Williams and bruising fullback Tim Riggins. But expectations to win immediately crumbled as Street suffered a career-ending spine injury in the season opener that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Taylor was forced to turn to seldom-used sophomore Matt Saracen for the rest of the game and, eventually, the season. Taylor molded Saracen much like he did Street and simultaneously became a very important father figure in Saracen's life, whose own father was serving in Iraq.
As Saracen came into his own and the Panthers battled through some early season losses, Taylor generated interest in some Division 1 programs. TMU becomes Taylor's chief suitor, and tempted him with the prospect of fulfilling his dream of coaching D-1 football.
A week before the state semifinals, a chemical spill near West Dillon forced Taylor and his team to find an alternate site to host the game. Upset at potentially losing home-field advantage by playing at a neutral field that was actually closer to their opponents, Taylor instead opted to build his own field from scratch on a local cow pasture. As the game progressed and the make-shift field degenerated into sludge due to a storm, the players became involved in what Slammin' Sammy Meade called, "an old-fashioned, grind 'em out battle." The Panthers prevailed over the Brant Vikings 14-8, and Taylor acknowledged Street's help with Saracen by offering Jason a job as assistant coach.
After he accepted the job at TMU and guided the Panthers through the playoffs, Taylor and his team arrived in Dallas for a showdown with ex-quarterback Ray "Voodoo" Tatum and the West Cambria Mustangs. But at state, news of his imminent departure surfaced and threatened to derail the team. The distraction proved to be too much as Dillon found itself on the wrong end of a 26-0 game in the first half. During halftime, Taylor delivered one of his most memorable speeches, imploring his team that, "This game is not over. This battle is not over." His galvanizing speech inspired the Panthers to a dramatic last second comeback win to capture the Texas High School Football State Championship.
After accepting the position of QB coach at TMU, and not wanting to uproot his family, Taylor moved to Austin by himself. But being away from home proved to be more difficult than expected and Taylor soon found himself yearning to be back. Meanwhile, the Panthers floundered under new head coach Bill McGregor and main booster Buddy Garrity looked to bring Taylor back. Taylor acquiesces, but trouble arose as he attempted to resign from TMU. Furthermore, upon his return to Dillon, Taylor learned that his old job is not secure because McGregor planned to fight his early termination.
After successfully regaining his job, Taylor faced difficulties as he tried to mend a broken relationship between Saracen and Williams while simultaneously learning that he will be making less money even after winning a state championship. In an effort to add supplementary income, he accepted the responsibility of Athletic Director under the assumption that the title held no real duties. Instead, he was immediately bombarded by requests from other sports programs that did not receive the same exorbitant funding as football. He delegated the vacant role of head women's volleyball coach to his wife, which created jealousy between his daughter Julie and her friend Tyra, as the latter became a star volleyball player.
After a tornado ripped through neighboring town Laribee, Taylor extended a hand out to the rival Lions by allowing them to use Herrmann Field for practice. For two weeks, tensions ran high as the rival schools confronted one another daily. It all came to a head during the game, as Laribee head coach Donald Dickes tackled Tim Riggins on a would-be game-winning touchdown, which forced a Laribee forfeit. Afterwards, Taylor confronted Dickes and the Lions head coach revealed that he was under a lot of stress as his wife had only 3 months to live.
With the graduation of Williams, Taylor moved Riggins to tailback. Taylor also gained additional talent with the arrival of freshman phenom QB JD McCoy. Widely touted as the second coming of Jason Street, McCoy threatened to take over Saracen's spot. Taylor reassured the senior, "You're MY quarterback." But following an early season loss and the continued pressure from McCoy's overly involved beer mogul father Joe, Taylor conceded and handed the starting job to JD. This caused a rift between him and Saracen, much to Taylor's displeasure. Eventually Saracen blossomed into much-needed help at wide receiver and with the trio of Saracen, Riggins and McCoy, the Panthers headed back to the state championship.
Although Williams graduated, his injury during the previous playoffs cost him his scholarship to Whitmore University. Relegated to his job at The Alamo Freeze, Williams all but gave up on football and his dream of the NFL. Taylor did not however, and spent his own time to work Williams back into shape. Taylor eventually secured a walk-on tryout for Smash at Texas A&M. Prior to taking the field, Taylor pulled Williams aside and told him to "go all the way." With Taylor's help, Williams was accepted into A&M as a walk-on.
Taylor successfully took the Panthers back to the state finals, but this time the tension was between him and his quarterback McCoy. Needing to call Children's Protective Services after witnessing an altercation between JD and his father, Taylor and his wife's fragile friendship with the McCoy's ended bitterly. Furthermore, JD lost focus and the Panthers trailed 27-0 as they headed into halftime. During the half, Taylor pulled McCoy and went back to Saracen and the old offense, the "Power-I". Saracen proceeded to lead Dillon all the way back by scoring 3 touchdowns, 1 each by passing, rushing, and receiving as the Panthers take a 28-27 lead just under 1:30 left in the game. But South Texas drove downfield and won it on a field goal as time expired and denied Taylor and his team an improbable comeback win.
With his contract up for renewal by the school board, Taylor's job came into question. Joe McCoy, who now runs the boosters after replacing Buddy Garrity as the wealthiest man in Dillon, wanted the board to give the job to Wade Aikmen, his son's personal QB coach and interim Offensive Coordinator of the Panthers in the wake of McGill's stroke. Realizing that McCoy is exacting revenge on his interference with Joe's family, Taylor made a last effort at saving his job. However, during Billy Riggins and Mindy Collette's wedding, Tami broke the news to her husband; the board offered the job to Aikmen, but offered Taylor the job of head coach at East Dillon High School, which was reopening.Vince Howard and Panther running back Luke Cafferty, who was illegally enrolled at West Dillon. He also received the free services of Stan Traub, a huge admirer of Taylor's and Pop Warner "Coach of the Year 2005." Taylor's rebuilding football team mirrored the rebuilding community of East Dillon, as the town gathered around their rediscovered pride.
Coach Taylor needed new uniforms to replace the ones he burned to symbolize new beginnings. With no help from the school, Taylor used his own money to pay for the new uniforms, something that does not go over well with Tami.
Taylor tried to rally up support from the community in preparation for the Lions' homecoming game. He sought out help from the last Lions' state championship team in 1986.
With the last game of the season against the team that cast him out, Coach Taylor prepared his Lions' for "Armageddon." East Dillon beat the Dillon Panthers on a last second field goal from Landry Clarke and denied the Panthers (and rivals McCoy and Aikmen) a trip to the playoffs.
Coach Taylor epitomizes the ideal football coach. He is tough, commands respect, and is an excellent motivator. But his true strength lies in his ability to connect with and care for his players. As his wife puts it, he is "an educator first and a molder of men." Taylor may not always make the right decision, but he always makes them with the right intentions. He is a stabilizing influence for his young players, many of which lack a fatherly figure such as Riggins, Saracen, Williams, and Howard.
Buddy Garrity The Panthers chief booster before the arrival of Joe McCoy and later biggest supporter of the East Dillon Lion, Garrity and Taylor don't always see eye to eye, as evidenced by their disagreements in "recruiting" but they share a mutual respect for one another. Buddy even moves in with the Taylors briefly, after being kicked out by his wife Pam. Garrity did everything in his power to keep Taylor at East Dillon after a furious attempt by Shane State University to lure Taylor to Florida and succeeded. However, the victory was short-lived following the announcement that terminated the East Dillon Lions football program.
The Panthers' longtime assistant coach who was bypassed when Taylor accepted the head coaching position, McGill was Taylor's Offensive Coordinator at West Dillon and a valued and respected member of the coaching staff. McGill eventually got his dream job when Wade Aikmen stepped down at the end of Season 4.
The "Stud of Suds", Joe McCoy is an outlier in Dillon's town of blue-collar citizens. Initially impressed with Taylor so much so that he moved his family from Dallas so his son could play under him, McCoy then assumed control of the boosters and replaced Taylor with his own coach.
Jason Street's father; they had a falling out when the Streets sued Taylor for Jason's injury.
Tami Taylor Coach Taylor's wife is a strong and independent woman who often acts as his sounding board when he is pressed with a hard decision. She and the coach share a very healthy marriage that, although occasionally peppered with disagreements, are rooted in love, trust, honesty, and compromise.
Eric and Tami's eldest daughter, Julie was romantically involved with quarterback/wide receiver Matt Saracen in high school before marrying him at the end of Season 5. Julie is incredibly bright and mature for her age, albeit a bit sheltered from growing up in Dillon which caused her to make some bad choices during her first semester in college.
The newest addition to the Taylor family, Gracie Belle was born in late 2006.
Some of the best of head coach Eric Taylor.
"They all got their perps, why can't we get ours?"
"When you see that car in our driveway, you'll be 25!"
"Could you kindly tell Glen to get his hands out of my wife's icebox?"
"At least she not interested in a serial killer, or one of the Riggins..."
"Give us all gathered here tonight the strength to remember that life is so very fragile, We are all vulnerable. And we will all at some point in our lives, fall. We will all fall. We must cary this in our hearts. That what we have is special. That it can be taken from us, and that when it is taken from us, we will be tested. We will all be tested to our very souls. We will now all be tested. It is these times, it is this pain, that allows us to look inside ourselves." (S1: "Pilot)
"Listen to me. You listen to me closer than you've ever listened to me before. Remember that Rutledge game, 4th quarter? You came in and you took over that game. Play by play, you owned that game. When I watched you that day I said to myself, 'this kid is gonna go all the way'. Right now, right here, God has placed you to do what you do best. Go all the way." (S3: Hello, Goodbye)
"Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose"
"I jumped conclusions. I realized what happened, I was wrong. I was wrong, and I apologize. The last two weeks I've been giving you hell and not once have you come to me and complained. And then you got it where you're protecting my daughter and you're not letting me think bad of her and again you don't say a word, not a word. Let me tell you something, not as a coach, but as a father, do you realize what an honorable thing that is? That is very honorable." (S2: Jumping The Gun)
"When Jason Street went down in the first game of the season, everybody wrote us off. Everybody. But here we are at the championship game. Right now, 40,000 people have also written us off. But there are some who do still believe in you, some who'll never give up on you. When you take that field, those are the people that I want in your minds. Those are the people I want in your hearts. Every man at some point in his life is gonna lose a battle. He's gonna fight and he's gonna lose. What makes him a man, is that in the midst of that battle, he does not lose himself. This game is not over. This battle is not over." (S1: State)
"Are we not clear that in 5 days a group of men are coming down here to destroy you? Is that, is that not clear? These same men are gonna be coming down here and using everything that they have to hurt you. They're gonna attempt to do this in front of your mothers, in front of your fathers, in front of your brothers, in front of your sisters." (S1: Pilot)
"You listen to me...you look around at each other and you ask yourselves gentlemen, what kind of a man am I? Because Friday night there will be a bond formed between and among you that will never be broken. I will not be proven wrong on that. Do I think we can beat the Dillon Panthers? I don’t think we can beat the Dillon Panthers...I know damn well we can beat the Dillon Panthers. The question is do YOU think we can beat the Dillon Panthers? THEN SHOW ME." (S4:Thanksgiving)