Kadlec award goes to outstanding assistant coaches in St. Louis
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
Jim Taylor, who was once told he was too small to even try out for his college football team, is about to receive a football award.
The St. Louis chapter of the National Football Foundation just notified Taylor, a former assistant football coach for Brentwood High School, that he will receive their 2015 John Kadlec Assistant Coach Award. Taylor was the defensive coordinator at BHS for 28 years, from 1973 to 2001.
The Tom Lombardo chapter of the NFF promotes amateur football by annually recognizing outstanding St. Louis area high school players, coaches, referees and football programs. The Kadlec award was named after the longtime Mizzou assistant football coach and radio announcer, who died last year. It is given to one coach a year.
Taylor learned he had been selected in a letter from the NFF he received on Feb. 17. None of the other 2015 winners were revealed in the letter, which invited him to a May 3 awards banquet at Orlando Gardens restaurant.
More of a baseball guy
Taylor is surprised to receive a football award. He’s better known as having been the head baseball coach at BHS. He held that job for 28 seasons, from 1974 to 2001, when his teams won two state titles. He has since been named to both the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association hall of fame and the St. Louis Amateur Baseball hall of fame.
“I never dreamed an award would ever come along in football,” Taylor said this week. “I was very surprised.”
Penn and Taylor work their magic
Taylor worked alongside head coach Bob Penn for all 27 of his football seasons at BHS. The duo racked up a record of 168-81-2 and made it to the state title game in 1987. They didn’t know each other very well when Penn took over the football program in 1974.
“He knew I had coached high school football in Illinois,” said Taylor. “He sat me down and asked me questions about football, like an interview. I guess he was pleased with what I said and he asked me to be the defensive coordinator.”
The two quickly found they worked well together. After going 3-6 that first season, the Eagles won seven conference championships in the next eight years.
“Our philosophies were very similar,” said Taylor. “He let me do my thing. He didn’t interfere with my defensive game plans or play-calling and I appreciated that. Our philosophy, our goals and how we wanted our kids to turn out all kind of worked together. We became very good friends and still are today.”
When Penn was selected to the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2014, he was quick to credit Taylor for much of his success. Asked who his biggest influences had been, Penn replied, “My good friend Jim Taylor — I worked with him and Charlie Kapfer, my assistant coaches, for 25 years. Having longtime coaches knowing the program was a big part of what we accomplished.”
Taylor said Penn and his wife Karen will be present for the awards banquet in May. Taylor’s daughter and son and their families will also be present. His wife, Sue, passed away two years ago after they had been married for 40 years.
Too small for college football
Taylor grew up on Chicago’s South Side and attended Crete-Monee High School. He was a standout in football, baseball and track as a running back, center fielder and sprinter. At Cornell College in Iowa he was a four-year starter on the baseball team, playing in left field. He wanted to play football at Cornell but they wouldn’t let him.
“I was only 135 pounds,” he said. “I went back to the football area in the gym to get some equipment and one of the football assistants asked me what I was doing. I said, ‘I’d like to play football.’ He said, ‘Look outside. There’s 100 guys practicing right now and the lightest guy out there is 180 pounds. We can’t allow you to play.’”
Coaching career starts
After earning a master’s degree in P.E. and serving in the U.S. Army, Taylor taught high school for nine years in Illinois. For three years he was the head baseball, track and wrestling coach in Danvers, near Bloomington. Then for six years he was the head football and baseball coach and athletic director in Winchester, near Jacksonville.
He was coaching in Illinois when he met his future wife, Sue, who headed the P.E. and health department at Lindenwood College.
“We met and either she had to leave St. Louis and come to Illinois or I had to come to St. Louis,” he said. “So I decided to leave. After I was a substitute teacher all over St. Louis, Brentwood hired me.”
He worked for the Brentwood School District for 33 years, the last six as the athletic director at BHS. He retired in 2006 but continues to attend most meets and games as the administrator on duty for athletic events, a paid position. He lives in Kirkwood.
Sue passed away two years ago. Taylor’s son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter will be at the awards banquet in May along with his longtime friends Duane and Jeanie Grandgenett. He also has a daughter, Debbie.