Keith McMahon knows a lot about the new face of University of South Florida Football.
The Manatee High School graduate was a starting offensive tackle for the Hurricanes in the early 1990s'. He took care of quarterback Willie Taggart's blind spots all the way to a 1992 Class 5A State title.
"Basically, I was the one taking all the hits in front of him," McMahon explained. "During practice and games he'd say, "Hey, don't let me die!"
At first glance, McMahon said there wasn't much to the Palmetto-native.
"He was 150 pounds soaking wet," he recalled from their prep playing days.
Still, there was something inside Willie Taggart that made the former Manatee High School signal-caller unstoppable.
"He's just a field general. He had this ability to not do more than he was supposed to do," McMahon says of the Bulls new head coach. "He was just very, very easy to get on the field with and listen to because he led by example."
After graduating from MHS in 1994, Taggart took his will to win to Western Kentucky University. First, he starred as a player on the gridiron – he's just one of four Hilltoppers in school history to have their number retired.
He took over the WKU program as head coach in 2010. Coach Taggart was famed with turning the team around in just three seasons.
Now, the 36-year-old Taggart is taking it back to where it all began for him - right here in the Bay area. He said he's thrilled to take the job with his family, friends, and former teammates alongside him.
"I'm excited, you know. I want to make them all proud," Taggart said during a Saturday afternoon press conference at the school to announce his hiring. "Gonna make them all proud."
With Coach Taggart's no excuses mentality, some say we're about to see the hometown star light up the field once again.
"Western lost a good one, but [USF] gained a great one," McMahon smiled.
Coach Taggart's return to the Bay area is almost exactly on the 20 year anniversary of when he led the Manatee High School Hurricanes to a state title back in 1992.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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