Troy Taylor held most of Cal’s career passing passing records for more than 25 years, until Jared Goff took advantage of Sonny Dykes’ pass-happy offensive attack to scrub clean the record book.
We remember Taylor as a rail-thin but skilled and courageous quarterback who always seemed to be scrambling for survival and shouldering a huge load on Cal teams that weren’t quite good enough.
He never complained or put his head down, just kept playing while rolling up 8,126 career passing yards and 51 touchdowns and earning the respect of everyone around him.
Now 53, Taylor returns to Memorial Stadium on Saturday. He’s been back before, as an assistant coach and as a radio analyst. This is different — this will be the first time he walks onto the field as the opposition, head coach of Sacramento State.
“Obviously, I continue to come back in some way,” he says in the video at the top. “This way will be a little different — it will be on the opposing sidelines. I won’t have the sun shining in my face.”
Taylor will bring the same competitive edge he had as a player. He expects the Hornets (1-1) to challenge the Golden Bear (0-2).
But he also knows this will be a unique moment.
“There’s not a place that’s more special to me than Berkeley. I love the place. It’s a big part of my life,” Taylor says. “It kind of shaped the person I am in terms of being challenged academically and athletically.
“Yeah, I would have liked to have won a Rose Bowl — that was really my only goal in going there. Obviously, we did not do that, but still great memories and a very special place to me.”
Here’s more from my interview with Taylor, starting with his memories of the two coaches he played for at Cal — Joe Kapp and the late Bruce Snyder.
I asked Taylor how Kapp recruited him to Cal out of Sacramento. The story is classic Joe Kapp.
On his home visit to meet Taylor and his family Kapp asked Troy why he wanted to come to Cal.
“I told him I want to go to the Rose Bowl. He’s like, 'Good.’ You could tell he liked that,” Taylor recalls. "Then I said I want to throw the ball. I want to throw for a lot of yards because I want to play in the NFL.
“And his whole facial expression just changed. He goes, `You stop it right there. Your only concern should be winning.’ And I’m like, that’s a little different recruiting tactic.
“Everybody else kind of was kissing my butt a little bit, but that was the charm of Joe Kapp. He wore his emotions and his beliefs on his sleeve. Obviously I liked it because I came to Cal.”
Kapp was fired after the Bears went 2-9 in Taylor’s freshman season of 1986. Snyder replaced him and began to build what would become a powerhouse 10-2 squad in 1991.
Taylor called Snyder “the epitome of a professional,” organized and surrounded by an excellent staff of assistants that developed players. But the fruition of that work came after Taylor was gone — the Bears went 17-6-1 in the two seasons after Taylor’s graduation.
“We didn’t quite get over the hump while I was there, but I guess we set the groundwork because there were some really good Cal teams that came after, and that was really fun to watch,” he says.
Taylor laughs about how he was No. 8 on the quarterback depth chart when he arrived as a freshman. He expects to be redshirted.
But the season didn’t go well and by the week of Game 5 at Oregon State Taylor heard rumbling the coaches might put him in for the second half. Taylor wanted to play, but didn’t want to burn his redshirt season for a couple snaps in a game that already was out of hand.
So he went to Kapp to have a conversation. Watch the video above to hear the story about what happened.
Unfortunately, the most memorable game Taylor played at Cal probably was the 1988 Big Game against Stanford. He threw a late touchdown pass to tie the game, but Stanford’s Tuan Van Le blocked Robbie Keen's 23-yard field goal with three seconds left and the Bears were left with an unsatisfying 19-19 tie and a 5-5-1 season record.
Taylor talks in the video above about that game and two amazing comeback victories over No. 15 Arizona and favored Washington State in his final two home games as a senior.
This is Taylor’s second season as head coach at Sacramento State following a 9-4 campaign with a Big Sky Conference co-title and FCS playoff berth in his debut season of 2019.
Taylor made the decision to opt out of playing a shortened 2021 spring schedule after the 2020 fall season was scrubbed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taylor talks in the video above about his current team and what he expects Saturday when the Hornets take on the Bears.
Cover photo of Troy Taylor courtesy of Sacramento State Athletics
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo