I thought my first blogpost would be about love, authenticity, growth, connection, heart or even football. Well, it’s about Coach Taylor. A person that embodied all of that.
Coach Taylor was a father figure to me. When I arrived in Seattle, I quickly bonded with him, which rarely happens. This type of bond, when you fully see each others souls, leads to profound respect and appreciation for who each person is and what they bring to the world. The more I knew Coach Taylor, the more I loved him.
Coach Taylor passed a few weeks ago while I was at Dr. Joe Dispenza’s week long retreat in London. Disconnected from social media during that time, I didn’t hear about it at first.
I was thinking of him a lot though. Which I did very often since I heard about the pancreatic cancer and even more upon realizing that we both were on a healing journey. Every time I learned something, I probed to see how he could also benefit from my findings. So obviously, at that retreat – one of the most healing and life changing experiences I was blessed to live – he was on my mind a lot.
But this time, it was different. I felt death.
The best way I can explain it is: it’s like a knowing, a voice within, that told me he was gone. I harshly brushed it away, telling myself I was tapping into fear. He was in a hard place and I was praying for him. I knew his character and I never thought for a second that he wouldn’t heal. I assumed that my analytical mind was playing tricks on me.
Only later… I understood. The first day waking up after the retreat, I read Lindsey’s post announcing the passing away of her husband, Taylor.
I was right.
I felt it.
I felt him.
Coach Taylor was with me.
He always will be.
I believe our life is a message.
The way we live gives an example to the rest of the world, of one way of going about the adventure of life. Our own special way that is only ours, it’s the gift we offer those around us, to experience, inspire and remember.
Let me tell you that Taylor, my football Coach gave us a hell of a statement of how to live with a full heart. What he brought to all of us, those lucky enough to have known him, changed us and will continue to do so. As we have an impact on the world too, he will be with all of us.
Before writing, I thought of his kids, Georgia (9), Parker (6), and Maisey (4). I want them to know what Coach Taylor taught me with his life. The moments that made a lifelong impression on me and all that I’d love for them to know about him. Then I realized that the way he inspired me should be shared with the whole world. The luckier the better!
It’s his legacy!
1. Open your heart fully
My little brother passed away the first week I arrived in the US, right before football training camp. For visa restriction reasons, I couldn’t attend the funeral held in Algeria. I delt with my grief and emerging emotions, on the other side of the world, very far from my support system or anything that felt familiar. The first day of camp, I remember feeling devastated but pushing through with everything I had. I had a strong desire to honor the commitment I made towards my team. Even more so, I was determined to hold on to what my brother would want for me, to show him it’s possible: fulfill my dreams and change the world.
In the midst of all of that, before the first practice, Coach Taylor looked me in the eyes and spoke to me: “I heard what happened and I’m very sorry. I have so much respect for what you’re doing right now. Go throw yourself fully in to what you love!” I don’t remember if he actually said “I’m with you” or if that’s what I felt. I read his heartfelt emotions. He genuinely got mine. He fully saw me in everything I was in that moment; both the pain and the courage. I felt seen, understood and supported. This is what empathy truly is. I went on and poured my heart into football as I always did and dedicated that season to my brother Satia.
It was the first impactful moment that Coach Taylor and I shared together.
It’s through empathy that we are able to truly and fully connect with someone else. Although it’s not necessarily linked to difficult times as in my example or how it’s often depicted. I believe it’s the essence of connection between beings. Alfred Adler says: “Empathy is seeing with eyes of another. Listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another.”
Taylor knew how to do that very well. That made him a great Coach but more so an outstanding human.
2. Be unapologetically yourself
Coach Taylor was very loud! He was big too. You couldn’t avoid noticing him. He had a strong personality, was opinionated and outspoken. He might ruffle some feathers and he shined so bright that anyone that dared to shine their light less than him may feel insecure. That’s ok though! That’s not on him.
I don’t know if he was always confident. I don’t think I ever asked him about his doubts. He probably had some, like all of us. But he always showed up to the world unapologetically how he was. Acting with purpose, and sharing with the world how he felt and what he thought.
I believe that’s the only way to make an impact. We all have our own voice and gifts.
If we don’t express them fully, we rob ourselves of the experience of life and its freedom when lived by our own rules. We also deprive others from all we are meant to offer them, the love and the lessons.
I look back at our practices together and remember, Coach Taylor always wore the most extravagant high socks that you could imagine! Any kind of color or bold pattern! They wouldn’t necessarily go with his outfits – well, let’s be honest, they would be pretty much impossible to match with any kind of garment – but he would pull them off with pride! Quite impressed, I joked about them with him but I never really knew why he liked them so much. I can imagine they simply made him happy and therefore he decided to wear them any occasion he could. Maybe even to share with us some joy, some laughter or to spark a conversation! Creating connection, he was great at it.
He and his socks for sure gifted us a lot of smiles on the field. And isn’t that just enough?
3. Be vulnerable and authentic
The second moment with Coach Taylor that was most impactful for me was at a team defensive meeting. They were held every week in my home during the season. I remember the moment, it seemed to me that I was surrounded by people talking about nothing really. They were barely listening to one another. In the middle of that cacophony, I felt my heart craving for deep connection.
That’s when Coach Taylor, sitting in the middle of the room, simply started sharing his life story and how football played such a powerful role in it. It was a way for him to transcend the hard challenges of his life’s journey, to channel his emotions and energy and to find a way to cultivate his gifts and share them.
I’m not sure if any of my other teammates got that gem of a moment. I, personally, was in awe. My soul was longing for sincerity, humanity and depth. Coach Taylor was able to generously offer that. I was fascinated to hear his epic and emotional stories to which I could relate so well. I then knew why he played football, why he was coaching it. I got that we were animated by the same fire. I understood what moved him, what drove him to be his best self. I saw his humanity. Our “why” is unique. To grasp it and to witness a person fully live it, that’s what you ignite when you take the battlefield together.
Being vulnerable demands courage. The courage to be seen fully behind the mask. When you do, you open yourself up to authentic bonds. You allow yourself to live with others in the truth. His demonstration of his emotions and his sensitivity didn’t make me think anything less of him. On the contrary! Wearing those feelings on his sleeves paired with being such a strong man… well now, that’s a superpower!
4. Know your values and live by them
Coach Taylor knew the power of values. They are the key to always know who you are, while constantly evolving and changing. When you have them identified, even in the midst of a storm, you have something to hold on to and live by. They help you navigate and are your compass through life. To name them is a statement on who you want to be for yourself and others.
Coach Taylor was a man of courage, grit, honor, dedication, generosity, strength, authenticity and love.
He knew the power of values in a team. I myself am strongly convinced that the most important factor in a teams success or failure, is the group culture and the way we bond together. Coach and I also agreed on the power of rituals. Excited to help our team find its soul, I was so pumped that Coach Taylor gave us a way to come together, voice our values and commit to bringing them to the group.
He has us all write what we promised to contribute to the team that season on a stick of wood (a paint stirrer). He then glued them all together in a sort of sacred hammer. At games, he walked around the sideline waving it, some times yelling, other times in a solemn silence making eye contact with each and every one of us. When we needed heart or strength, he reminded us of the vows we made. That was very powerful! As I poured myself into our mission, it represented everything to me.
Taylor was all about bringing people together. He was doing it his own way but was always researching how to do it even better… how to make the magic happen! He loved people and his players. He showed it to us on the field with his dedication and passion and outside by his care and attention.
I believe Taylor had that kind of vision for himself and his life too. He knew what he stood for and made sure his values were at the core of everything he did. You knew they were important to him and it gave you the keys to respect him and the team. It’s so powerful when someone lives their values with integrity and honesty. It makes all their relationships so much easier.
5. Challenge yourself to grow
Coach Taylor was an amazing student of the game. He loved football with a passion and dived deeply into it. I loved watching tapes with him as he would point out little details that would make a great improvement. Myself being very thirsty to learn and expand my football IQ, I loved picking his brain.
He also was a big advocate of mental preparation and especially visualisation, which we spent quite a bit of time talking about. He believed elite players would spend hours going through every movement they’d need to make in every type of situation. I was convinced of the same and, at that time, was currently researching it myself. It was so refreshing to hear his approach while I was playing with mine.
His written comments on the game tapes were pure gold! Soooo rich and accurate, both to improve and empower each athlete!
I do believe football and life translate to each other. That how you do anything you do everything. Having the growth mindset in life is what allows you to change and evolve fluidly, to expand, and to be happy
He was a big student of human kind: what drives us, how we challenge ourselves, take hard decisions, grow and sublime our innate qualities.
Taylor always listened to others like he had something to learn from everyone.
We had all kinds of conversations, from football to our lives, the joyful moments, the challenges, the lessons and even ancestral plant medicine.
We didn’t always agree. We actually did disagree on some very important topics. But I am certain that Coach Taylor had that priceless quality to call himself into question. While I was reflecting on how I could be better, more understanding, loving and unifying… I genuinely think he was doing the same.
6. Be in love with life
The only way to find the strength to come back from hardship, loving, true and alive, is to be deeply in love with life.
Coach Taylor loved with a passion!
He always showcased his love for his family; his wife, their three kids and their dog. While he was a tough, big, football guy and he talked lovingly about them all the time! When the kids were at practice with us, Coach Taylor let his caring and funny side shine with them. I know they meant the world to him.
I remember the story he told sometime after Georgia’s 6th birthday, when she, Parker and him were out on a canoe. He described to me his kids reactions the moment he said, “We’re goin’ over!” right before he “sunk the canoe” on his words, how they were all bawling in three feet of water, while everyone observing was laughing hysterically. He recalled the event with such amusement, awe and care and could paint in such detail his kids facial expression! He often talked about education and what he was hoping to instill in his children while embracing who they truly were. It’s pretty much what he did with us too, his players, his big kids on the field.
That for me is paying attention and celebrating all of the beauty life offers.
He loved his family with all his heart, but he also deeply loved his football one. Since the first time you hit the field with him, you could feel his presence. He is the Coach that would always encourage you loudly, strive to know who you are, push you to bring out your best, give you everything he had and his heart for you to fully see and thrive.
He lived with passion.
The best weekend of the year for Coach Taylor was actually not about football. It was the Seattle Seafair, when the Blue Angels showcase their impressive synchronised-maneuvering flight skills over Lake Washington. Passionate about aeronautics and flying, we both had on our bucket list to become pilots. He also planned to learn the guitar. I would have loved to hear him play and experience his artististic side.
We didn’t get to fly together but I got to experience one of his favorite pastimes: a Seahawks football game! I was blessed to share his signature homemade pizza with his family, at home. It was the last game of the regular season against rivals, the 49ers. We weren’t at the stadium, but let me tell you it was WILD!! The vibe in the living room was kinda European soccer ultras! In Taylor’s own words, there was, ”lots of hootin’ and hollerin’!!!”. He coached his kids well! I loved seeing him in his happy place! In his sanctuary, with his loved ones, enjoying the game that gave so much to both of us… the Seahawks had a very special place in his heart. That moment had a very special effect on mine.
Another great moment we shared together was going shooting after our football season ended. All my life I had an obsession with Clay Pigeon shooting. Some of you might be surprised to hear this but it was a dream come true and we had suuuuuuuch a blast!
One day he wrote me hella enthusiastic that: “At 40 years old and 300+lbs I can STILL NAIL a backflip off a dock! I was sure there was going to be some comedic value for all watching but I nailed that shit!”
Man, that for me is living life to the fullest, taking the opportunities, the exhilaration and the joy at every moment it’s offered! Even more so, is knowing that you’re the one creating all of that!
Why would you decide to half ass life? It’s all or nothing baby!
Yoda said: “Do or do not.There is no try.” Coach Taylor would agree!
7. Be a warrior
Aubrey Marcus : “What is a warrior? A warrior is a way of life, a way of thinking, a way of being. Carlos Castaneda says we choose only once, to be warriors or ordinary. We choose only once. Because choosing to be a warrior alters your fundamental approach to life. While others will view everything as a blessing or a curse, you see only challenges. And a warrior lives to overcome challenges.”
Coach Taylor was a warrior.
The way he transmuted the very hard difficulties in his earlier life has always been an inspiration to me. Was he able to fully release the pain that came with them, that I don’t know. But he certainly forged some of his strongest qualities out of overcoming those tough experiences. Most importantly, the way he still let us see his heart and gifted it so generously, showed me true and pure strength of character. Only the brave can open themselves again after being hurt, because they know that’s the only way to live.
The way he faced cancer is the way he lived all of his life.
Brave, strong, relentless but also open, kind, loving and humble.
The team motto that he instilled in us was: “Reject passivity, counterpunch adversity.”
I don’t know the depth of the physical suffering he went through during his healing journey. Though, going through a similar one myself, I can fathom a bit the mental burden of it, the way it challenges you and forces you to grow. I wasn’t behind the close doors of his sanctuary and family; though, I was certain and still am to this day, that he was showing up to it with everything he was.
This deep knowing is proof of how powerful his lifes statement is and the impression it left on me.
Aubrey Marcus writes that the Code of The Warrior Poet is:
Hide from nothing.
Embrace your darkness.
Champion your light.
Strip off your armor.
Train your sword of discretion.
Be completely vulnerable.
Recognize your invincibility.
Sing everyone’s song.
Fight for the good.
Coach Taylor embodied all of that. If you met him you know. If you haven’t, I wish for you to feel that through my writing. Be inspired. Look within you. How can you heal? What can you change? What life do you want to create?
I am at a moment of my life where I reflect on my legacy and what I want to leave to the world. I can look at Coach Taylor’s example and know he left a lot for us. So many amazing memories to recall and relive, and just as many life lessons by which to be inspired.
If I ever get to play football again, he’ll be in my heart. I’ll feel him with me every instant of the whole process. He loved all of it! That what makes the Greats!
If I never set foot on a field again. I know we’ll be together too.
I walk my path of life in a way I believe would make him proud and that means a lot to me.
He showed me his humanity, and I feel the same way.
The way we’ve been teachers to each other in this life goes way beyond the stories I told and what these words can transcribe. I meditated a lot on that. I will keep on integrating his teachings during the rest of my time here. I wish we got to share our bond longer and make it grow even deeper. My walk will now be the way to keep on doing so.
I played for 12 seasons and I haven’t come across many coaches that had such a deep impact on my life and my being, not even other humans during that life span.
Coach, thank you for your love and wisdom!
I love you.