Taggart mania on display at second WKU football Family Fun Day

Head Coach Willie Taggart shakes hands with Darryl Smith of Bowling Green, a former football player at WKU, Saturday at Family Fun Day in Smith Stadium. “Western football helped shape my life,” Said Smith. “It made me who I am today.”

Brad Stephens

This story was originally published Aug. 28, 2010.

If Saturday’s WKU football Family Fun Day was any indication, first-year Head Coach Willie Taggart truly is enough of an attraction to draw a crowd despite the Toppers’ current 20-game losing streak.

Members of the WKU football team converged with members of the local community Saturday while the sun beat down on Smith Stadium’s searing artificial turf field.

The second-year event, hosted by WKU’s Touchdown Club, featured inflatables, balloon artists, face painting and autograph tables with Topper players and coaches. But Taggart was by far the main attraction, as fans waited in lines to shake the hand of the man wearing the straw hat, WKU football sunglasses and his regular wide smile.

Taggart said interactive events like Family Fun Day can benefit everyone involved with WKU football.

“It gives our community an opportunity to come out and meet our players and see that they’re not just big, mean guys — that they have a soft heart too,” Taggart said. “It also helps our players to know our community and make them realize there are other people out there really counting on them.”

Taggart was quarterback for the Toppers from 1995-1998 and set eleven school records during that time. He was also co-offensive coordinator on the Toppers’ 2002 I-AA National Championship team.

Taggart’s past successes have been embraced by Topper fans who have suffered a twenty game losing streak dating back to 2008.

Among those excited to see Taggart was WKU sophomore Chris Sullivan, a former equipment manager who described himself as “the number one fan of the Hilltoppers.”

“I see a strong belief in this team,” Sullivan said. “With Willie Taggart at the helm I really see us going far.”

Echoing praises for Taggart was former Topper lineman Jim King, whose son, Preston King, is currently WKU’s starting right tackle.

Jim King said his son has noticed a lot more intensity and more positive attitude surrounding the program since Taggart became coach.

“The team has a little more of an edge than it’s had the past couple of years,” he said.

Another former player to say hello to the new coach was Bubber Simpson, a longtime WKU psychology professor who played with Topper legend Jimmy Feix during the 1950s.

Simpson said Taggart’s success as a player could translate to success on the sidelines.

“Players said Taggart was a real leader in the huddles,” Simspon said. “When things were down he could motivate the team and make them go. That’s a really good quality for a coach to have.”

Five-year-old Bowling Green resident Carter Durrett came to the event with his father, Jason Durrett, a Supply Tech for WKU’s ROTC program.

The elder Durrett said that thanks to Taggart and his new coaching staff, fans are looking for success in the form of Sun Belt championships.

“People around town are talking more about this team,” Durrett said. “It’s going to take a couple of years to get this turned around, but if they could win the Sun Belt this year that would be great.”