The new leader of the Pack: Taylor starts in ‘perfect place’

Published 7:42 am Wednesday, August 30, 2023

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Matt Taylor was content in his role as D.H. Conley’s offensive line coach and offensive coordinator. The 37-year old Greenville native and former Vikings offensive and defensive tackle (Class of 2004) had steadily increased his role on Nate Conner’s staff and had shepherded many players, including Holton Ahlers and C.J. Johnson, on to Division I rosters.

He thought of the Assistant Athletic Director position as his next goal, then maybe Athletic Director after the current one retired. Instead, he found himself looking across the field at his former boss, colleagues and players when D.H. Conley came to Washington Friday night.

“it was weird to have my first home game as a head coach against my former team and alma meter, but it was also really cool to see those coaches and players from a different perspective,” Taylor said. “They wanted to beat me as bad as I wanted to beat them.”

Conley prevailed, 27-0, to gain its first win, while the Pack fell to 0-2.

The game was scheduled before Taylor took the job, but the irony wasn’t lost on him.

“Conley means a lot to me because I had tremendous coaches when I played and worked with great people from the start of my coaching career. I would have been happy staying there forever, but this was too good of an opportunity to pass up.”

Taylor heard WHS was looking for a new coach to replace Perry Owens shortly after he resigned to return to his hometown of Edenton to coach. He talked to a few people and decided to toss his hat in the ring.

“My wife (Sarah) and I were married on the Pamlico River waterfront in Washington Park and I’ve always had a ton of respect for the Washington football program,” Taylor said. “It was the one job I would leave Conley for, so I decided to go all in during the interview.”

Taylor gave a PowerPoint presentation on how his WHS program would look and outlined in detail everything from his core values, coaching history and how the team would have impact in the community to players he’s coached in the past and his practice plan.

“I really wanted the job the more I thought about it, so I wanted to put everything on the table,” Taylor said. “I was the first to interview and they offered me the job a couple weeks later.”

He met with the players in mid-May, then started the summer weightlifting and conditioning program. He has eight sophomores on the varsity and two start on the offensive line. Despite the 0-2 start, Taylor said better days are ahead.

“We’re building a program here, not just a team,” he said. “I’m putting my business degree to good use, because being a head coach is like running a small business in a way. There’s a lot to stay on top of and we’ve come a long way from our first meeting.”

After winning a heavyweight wrestling state championship his senior year, Taylor wrestled at UNC-Pembroke for two years before a torn ACL ended his career. He graduated from N.C. Wesleyan with a degree in Business Administration and will teach Accounting and Intro to Business at WHS.

Conner, his former boss at Conley, predicts success sooner rather than later for the Pam Pack program.

“Matt is an excellent coach and an even better person,” he said. “He forms deep relationships with his players and maintains them after they graduate. I totally encouraged him to take the next step in his career and he will be a great asset to the Washington football community.”