SMC — A Westside football icon has passed.
Robert Taylor, a man who coached football at Santa Monica College since 1984, mentoring countless young athletes along the way, died Thursday at the age of 64. Funeral arraignments have yet to be announced.
Taylor, who had been on medical leave since being relieved as head coach after an enrollment scandal became public during the summer, is survived by his brother Ed. The cause of death has yet to be announced by SMC, where he was still on staff until the time of his death.
As news spread around football circles, it became evident that Taylor meant a great deal to the men he has mentored over the years.
“He helped me this year,” first-year Santa Monica High School Head Coach Travis Clark said. “He has given me so much advice.
“He’s a great individual who will be dearly missed.”
Taylor first came to SMC in 1984 and served as an assistant until 1994 when he was named head coach. During his tenure with the school, he coached the team to three bowl victories and was instrumental in developing a number of players who later went on to star in the National Football League.
Before coaching at SMC, Taylor spent time on the sidelines for L.A. Southwest College, L.A. City College, John Muir High School in Pasadena and North Carolina A&T.
The Cincinnati Bengals’ Chad Ochocinco (formerly Johnson) immediately posted a number of tweets on his Twitter page about his former coach on Thursday.
“Robert Taylor is part of the reason why I’m here today, he gave me and Steve Smith (panthers) a (sic) oppurtunity (sic), I love you, you’ll b [sic] missed,” Ochocinco wrote on his page.
Across town, USC Head Coach Pete Carroll also let the Twittering world know how he felt about the passing.
“Sending our regards out to the family of coach Robert Taylor of Santa Monica College … just passed today, very sorry to hear this sad news,” Carroll posted.
While Taylor’s recent past with SMC was mired in controversy, his overall impact is what is remembered most by those who knew him.
That tutelage was detailed in the book, “Chad: I can’t Be Stopped.” Author Paul Daugherty wrote that Ochocinco, who was a work in progress during his time at SMC, looked to Taylor as an authority figure. Having not grown up with his own father, a trait both he and Taylor shared, Ochocinco immediately gravitated to him as he made his way to the NFL.
Samohi Athletic Director Norm Lacy, who knew Taylor well from their years of coaching in Santa Monica, said that he will be sorely missed as a mentor. Lacy singled out the work he has done with African American players as one of Taylor’s greatest accomplishments on the field.
“His defining moment was not what he did this year,” Lacy said. “It was the fact that he helped a lot of players.”