Western Michigan University Names Lance Taylor (Choctaw) Only NCAA Division I Native American Head Soccer Coach

Lance Taylor, West Michigan University Head Football Coach (Photo/Levi Rickert for Native News Online)

KALAMAZOO, Michigan — With music provided by the Western Michigan University marching band and cheers from the cheerleaders, Lance Taylor (Choctaw), accompanied by his wife and two young children, entered Heritage Hall on Friday afternoon for what could be described as partial rally motivation and part of the press conference, who will be introduced as the head coach of the WMU Football program.

Friday’s event comes a day after the university announced he was hired as its 17th head football coach.

Taylor, 41, a member of the MOWA Band of Choctaw Indians, which is a state-recognized tribe in Alabama, thrilled the crowd with his fiery belief that he was playing to win. He began his remarks with “Go, Broncos”

“I will not shy away from high goals. We will work to be great every day in every way. I will work tirelessly every day in every way and set the standard of excellence for our players, coaches and everyone who touches our program,” said Taylor.

During the Q&A portion of the press conference, Taylor was asked by Native News Online how he incorporates the Native American warrior into his coaching style.

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“I grew up two miles from my reservation and grew up going to powwows learning about our culture, history and traditions. It was woven and made me who I am today. It’s part of the fabric of what I do and what I believe in,” Taylor said. “I think it will come out of our program because I do our mission every day. So I’m proud of my heritage and I love my people and I know they’re proud of me.”

Kurt Trevan (Gun Lake Tribe), an alumnus of the university, currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Western Michigan University.

“The hiring of Coach Taylor is a huge win for the university as well as for Indian Country. He is an example of the result of hard words and determination and will inspire our native youth to dream big,” Trevan told Native News Online on Friday.

Dan Bartholomae, WMU’s athletic director, told Native News Online, while the university was able to hire the best candidate from its pool of finalists, Taylor was one of the top leaders interviewed in the selection process.

“I was inspired by how his Choctaw heritage, life experiences as a member of the tribe, and his pride in family history led to his incredible rise to the top of our profession,” said Bartholomae.

Coach Taylor’s wife Jamie with daughter Jemma. (Photo/Levi Rickert)

The WMU Football program is part of the NCAA’s Football Subdivision of Division I and is a member of the Mid-American Conference (MAC).

Taylor is currently the only Division I Native American head coach. Previously, Jerome Souers (Cheyenne River Sioux) was Northern Arizona’s head football coach for 21 years before stepping down from that position in 2018.

Taylor arrives at Western Michigan University after spending the 2022 season as offensive coordinator at the University of Louisville. Prior to joining the Cardinals, Taylor spent three seasons as a running coach and cross-country match coordinator at the University of Notre Dame, leading the Fighting Irish to a 2022 College Football Playoff appearance and a 2021 New Year’s Six Fiesta Bowl appearance.

In those three seasons with the Irishman, Taylor led Kyren Williams to two 1,000-yard seasons in 2020 and 2021. Williams rushed for 1,002 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. As a red jersey freshman in 2020, he garnered 1,125 yards and 13 points to earn All-American Freshman honors and was a finalist for Freshman of the Year.

Taylor had two coaching stints with the Carolina Panthers where he coached the Wide Receivers. In 2013, the Panthers finished 12-4, winning the NFC South.

Between his two coaching stops with the Carolina Panthers, Taylor coached runners at Stanford, where he coached and mentored Heisman Trophy runner-up Christian McCaffrey and recruited Heisman runner-up Bryce Love. McCaffrey and Love have three of the top five seasons in Stanford history. While with the Cardinal, Taylor won the Pac-12 Championship, the Rose Bowl, and was named the 2015 FootballScoop.com Running Backs Coach of the Year.

Lance Taylor on signage at Waldo Stadium where the Broncos play soccer on a snowy Friday afternoon in Kalamazoo, Michigan (Photo/Levi Rickert)

Taylor spent the 2010-2012 seasons with the New York Jets as the offensive quality control coach and assistant tight end coach. In the 2010 season, the Jets won a wildcard and divisional playoff game against the New England Patriots and appeared in the AFC Championship game.

In 2009, he coached wide receivers in Appalachia where, under his guidance, the Mountaineers set school records with 284 receptions and 3,621 receiving yards. The team finished 11-3, won the Southern Conference title, and advanced to the Football Championship Subdivision semi-finals.

He began his coaching career as a postgraduate assistant to Nick Saban at his alma mater in Alabama in 2007-08.

Prior to winning the scholarship, Taylor played 38 consecutive wide receiver games for Alabama between 1999 and 2003 for the Crimson Tide. As a senior, he served as special team captain for (then) coach Mike Shula.

Taylor played professionally for the Colorado Crush and Columbus Destroyers of the Arena Football League as well as AF2’s Green Bay Blizzard and Louisville Fire from 2004–06.

Taylor graduated from Alabama in 2003 with a degree in business management. Taylor’s father, James, also attended Alabama and played cross-country under legendary head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.

Coming from Mt. Vernon, Alabama, Taylor’s family includes his wife Jamie, son Jet and daughter Jemma.

About the author: “Levi Rickert (Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation) is the founder, publisher and editor of Native News Online. Rickert received the Native Media Award for Best 2021 Print/Online Column from the Native American Journalists Association. in the advisory board of the Association of Multicultural Media Correspondents. He can be contacted at levi@nativenewsonline.net.

Contact: levi@nativenewsonline.net

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