Sherwood Taylor always stressed to his boys the value of building relationships. The value of connections and associations.
Football is a contact sport. Football coaching is a contacts vocation.
“I preached to them, it's your contacts,” Taylor said. “It's everything. You can be the smartest thing in the world, but if you don't get the opportunity …”
The opportunities have come for Zac and Press Taylor. Sometimes, it's not just who you know. It's who you know knows who.
Both Taylor brothers, neither past 30 years old nor that far removed from quarterbacking the Norman Tigers, are coaching in the NFL.
Zac is the Dolphins' quarterbacks coach. Press is a quality control coach, working with receivers, for the Eagles. The Taylors aren't yet breathing down the necks of the Super Bowl Harbaughs, but both in the NFL by 30 is impressive.
“It's awesome,” Zac Taylor said. “It's a rare experience that two brothers get to share. You're always proud of your brother when something great happens to him.”
Some would say Zac Taylor married his way to the NFL. His father-in-law is Mike Sherman, who was head coach at Texas A&M and now is the Dolphin offensive coordinator. Sherman hired Taylor at A&M and took his son-in-law along to Miami.
Sounds like a cushy path, until you remember that few gigs are as tough as Zac's first assignment for Sherman. Son-in-law. Nothing easy about that job for most guys.
Zac doesn't take umbrage at the suggestion his father-in-law was looking out for him.
“I certainly owe a lot of my experiences to him,” said Zac, who seems to have the personality to handle such doubt. “I played quarterback my whole career. There's always skepticism.
“You have to learn to make it work. You're at work (together) every day all day. We definitely have a great relationship. We've made it work.
“I've been fortunate. I've learned a lot from him.”
Press Taylor's advancement to the NFL required a bit more karma.
Last summer, then-Oregon coach Chip Kelly visited the Dolphin headquarters. He stopped by to talk football with Zac Taylor. Little brother Press was in Miami on a visit, doing the same, after one year as a graduate assistant at the University of Tulsa.
Fast forward six months. Kelly takes the Eagles' job and started putting together a multitiered staff, as is common in the NFL. Kelly needed some young coaches, willing to work hard for relatively little money. Greg Austin, who played with Zac Taylor at Nebraska and had been a graduate assistant on Kelly's Oregon staff, threw out the name Press Taylor.
Kelly remembered his Miami chat, called Press for an interview and hired him.
“Just happened to be at the right place at the right time,” said Press Taylor.
The Taylor brothers, four grades apart in school, were solid quarterbacks at Norman, then both starred at Butler County Community College in Kansas (though Zac initially went to Wake Forest). Zac went to Nebraska and was the 2006 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year; Press went to Marshall, where he was a backup.
Their dad was a coach, too. Sherwood was an All-State player at Ada, started at safety for Barry Switzer's teams in the late 1970s and then coached at both Kansas State and OU in the 1980s.
His sons “loved the game, studied the game, but I never had the feeling they wanted to go into coaching,” Sherwood said. “But they loved the strategy with it. Honestly, I can't even have conversations with ‘em anymore. They know way more than I ever did about football.”
Zac said he caught the coaching bug not from his father-in-law, but from his father, who even though had entered private business still coached them in youth sports.
“He was such a great teacher, it was natural to learn from him, be inspired by him,” Zac said.
Then it was natural for Press to follow Zac.
“He saw the fun I was having with coaching,” Zac said. “Made sense to jump right into it.”
Both Taylors say they love the NFL. For a student of the game, what's not to love? No recruiting. No checking on class attendance. No campus drama. It's all football.
“We used to visit, ‘aw, we'd never go to the pros,'” Sherwood said his boys would say. “Now, it's, ‘I'll never go back to college.'
“It would have to be a really big move up. I think both enjoy doing what they're doing at the pro level. I could see Zac going back to, like, Nebraska, if the right position came along.”
Taylor certainly was well-respected in Nebraska. His coordinator and quarterback coach was Jay Norvell, who now is on Bob Stoops' OU staff.
“Great kid, great family,” Norvell said. “Football family. Absolutely love that kid and knew he would be an excellent coach from the day I met him and recruited him.
“It was his makeup is why we recruited him up there. Sharp football mind.”
The Taylors' early returns of the 2013 season are solid. The Dolphins are a surprising 2-0, with Taylor coaching his protégé' at A&M, Ryan Tannehill. Meanwhile, the fun-to-watch Eagles, with Kelly's hurryup offense, were 1-1 going into a Thursday night game against Kansas City.
There will be no Taylor Brothers showdown this side of the Super Bowl. At least not until 2015, the next time AFC East teams are scheduled to play NFC East teams.
But by then, who knows where the Taylor boys might be?
“Both have been diligent in building relationships,” Sherwood Taylor said. “They did a good job, staying with people.”
Making contacts, yes, but also building upon the family to which they were born.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.