UT Martin alum exchanges helmet for whistle, stripes

UT Martin alum exchanges helmet for whistle, stripes

Posted: Monday, August 4, 2008 8:38 pm
By: Kenneth Coker Messenger Sports Reporter

By KENNETH COKER Messenger Sports Reporter It’s for the love of the game. In a nutshell, that’s the reason why Southeastern Conference referee and Jackson North Side product Mike Taylor said he has chosen to stay in football long after his playing days concluded. Taylor, a 1984 All-State lineman at JNS and a starting offensive lineman at the University of Tennessee at Martin under Fred Pickard, was in Union City Friday to speak to the Rotary Club at the Hampton Centré. However, Taylor, who worked his way up from being a high school official in 1989 to the Ohio Valley Conference in 1992 and on to the Southeastern Conference in ’99, never envisioned a life of becoming an official. “I never really wanted to go into coaching,” Taylor said. “I had offers to become a graduate assistant at UT Martin, Tennessee, Tulsa and Georgia, but I wanted to get out of the game. “After I got a day job, Buddy Patey, who was a local referee for many years, kept coming into my office and telling me I should give it a try, which I did, and I eventually fell in love with refereeing.” Since that fateful day, Tay-lor has called nine postseason NCAA Bowl games and the 2001 SEC title game and he was the line judge in the 2004 National Championship game when the University of Southern California defeated Oklahoma. And along the way, Taylor has met some very colorful characters — one of whom was Larry Shanks, a former head football coach at Union City and Obion County Central high schools. “I remember one night when I was doing high school football, I had Obion Central and I was on the two-yard line,” Taylor told the Rotary crowd. “I turn around and Shanks is right behind me and he shouldn’t be because the coaches’ box ends at the 30-yard line. “I think I had spit stains on my shirt that night where he had been yelling all night while he was right behind me.” Another such character of the game that Taylor came across is former South Carolina and Notre Dame head man Lou Holtz. “With Coach Holtz, you never knew what he was going to do as he was a little crazy,” Taylor said. “Every time we’d meet with him in a coaches meeting before a game, he’d tell us that ‘He prayed for us all night’ and one time when South Carolina was playing Tennessee, he was way down on the other end of the field. “Well, here he comes flailing his arms up and down and I’m thinking, ‘What could he have seen from the other end of the field?’ Holtz says ‘Here, somebody dropped this on the field’ and he handed me a pencil.” Still, another personality of the SEC and college football in general is Ole Miss’ new head coach and former Murray State skipper Houston Nutt, who Taylor characterized as a “beggar,” due to his repeated pleas of “Mike, I need some help, give me some help” that are pointed in the direction of the referee with local ties. Aside from drawing riotous laughter from the Rotarians in attendance on Friday, Taylor also told the crowd of the rule changes for the SEC that go into effect this season. For starters, the SEC will play with a 40-second clock much like the National Football League has in an effort to give teams the opportunity to snap the ball quicker. There will also not be a five-yard face mask anymore. In order for a flag to be called for a face mask penalty, the offending player must grab the opponent’s face mask and twist. Such an action will result in a 15-yard penalty. Other rule changes include the fact that after a play that ends out of bounds, the clock will start after the mark unless the game has less than two minutes remaining. Furthermore, an intentional horse collar tackle will now result in a 15-yard penalty and the SEC will no longer warn a sideline. Any misconduct whistle against a bench will result in an automatic 5-yard penalty. In a moment of sheer comedy that left the crowd in stitches, Taylor looked at former Union City High School football coach Randy Barnes after he told of that rule change and said, “It’s a good thing you’re not in the game anymore.” Aside from poking some good-natured fun at the local coaches he has encountered, Taylor, who holds down three jobs away from the gridiron, had a message that championed the SEC and its brand of football. “There is nothing in my mind that is as intense as an SEC rivalry,” Taylor bragged. “The intensity on the field does not compare to anything you’ll see in any other conference. “I’ve heard talk of a college football playoff proposal. And I think that’s what we already have in the SEC. We have 12 games that are playoff-type atmospheres during the regular season.” Sports reporter Kenneth Coker can be contacted by e-mail at kcoker@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 8.4.08

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