Kerry Taylor grew up playing football. His father was a nine-year veteran of the NFL, and his uncle John has been forever memorialized catching a Super Bowl touchdown pass from San Francisco 49ers Hall-of-Famer Joe Montana.
But Kerry Taylor is his own man who made his own mark on the Arizona football community, having played for the Arizona Cardinals, ASU Sun Devils and Hamilton High School Huskies. Presently, Taylor is looking to make his mark on Arizona football history in taking over as head coach of the Salt River High School football program in 2016.
On Monday, June 20, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Education Board approved the hiring of the 27-year-old Taylor, and work is now underway to build a championship football program. In terms of Arizona football history, as far back as state championships were recorded by the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) and Canyon Athletic Association (CAA), only one team with a predominantly Native American roster has participated in a state championship game: In 1960, the Tuba City Warriors six-man football team lost the state championship game 40-21 to St. David. Since then, no other Native American football team has played for a state title.
“Make no mistake,” Taylor said in his first meeting addressing the Salt River football team, “we are going to win a championship.”
Taylor played high school football for arguably the most dominant team in recent state history: Hamilton High in Chandler, a program that has won five Arizona state championships and played in nine of the last 10 championship games. In the mid-2000s, when Taylor was catching passes as a prep star, he won two high school state championships for Hamilton while making a name as a top regional and national collegiate prospect. Taylor chose his hometown team, Arizona State University, for college and was equally impressive playing for the Sun Devils, where he led the team in receptions as a senior.
Taylor then started an NFL career in 2011, landing jobs on six NFL teams including stops at Green Bay, New England, Jacksonville and Arizona over the course of his career. There Taylor learned from the brightest minds in football, having played under Mike McCarthy, Bill Belichick, Gus Bradley and Bruce Arians, among others. A highlight of his playing career was in 2013, when the Cardinals played the Lions and Taylor led his hometown team in receiving. The Cardinals won 25-21, and Arians handed Taylor the game ball in the locker room after the game.
“It showed me that hard work and dedication pays off,” said Taylor while speaking to an assembly of parents and student-athletes at the 2015-16 Salt River High School sports awards banquet. “It was my dream to play for my hometown team, and look what happened.”
Upon leaving the Denver Broncos and retiring from the NFL in 2015, Taylor was named offensive coordinator for Chandler High School, where he coached with his father. This season he will serve as the head coach at Salt River and also split his time working as an assistant coach for Phoenix College.
“There are a lot of opportunities out there after high school,” said Taylor. “If you are capable and willing to put forth the effort, you will find success.”
Salt River High School plays eight-man football and is currently a member of the Canyon Athletic Association. In the fall the team returns seven of eight starters and two All-State players. Under the direction of Taylor and new strength and conditioning coach Katy Wilson, the team has started summer training. Groups meet at 12:30 and 4:30 p.m. at the SRHS gym Monday through Thursday for speed and agility training. Workouts are open to all high school and junior high kids in the Community and surrounding areas.
“The big picture is to build something at the school that proves that positive relationships, hard work, commitment and teamwork pay off,” said Taylor. “Once we find success together as a team, we will have something special that hopefully resonates throughout the school.”