There is an old adage that says “You can take a player out of the game, but you can’t take the game out of a player” In regard to sports the meaning is that for various reasons there always come a time when someone isn’t able to compete anymore but the love of competition never dies.
Former Jonesboro resident James Taylor, is a perfect example. During his years at Jonesboro-Hodge from 1981-84, Taylor was an accomplished athlete who left an impressive resume. From 1981-83 he compiled a sparkling 32-5 record as top singles player for the JHHS tennis team earning him team MVP honor in 1982 and “83 as well as being named to the Class 2A All-State team in 1983. As a member of the basketball team he earned letter for three years and was named team Co-Captain in 1984 also receiving 1st team All-District honors and being named to the All-North Louisiana team and earned Class 2A All-State Honorable Mention designation.
The main reason he excelled in those two sports in high school, as well as, being a 7-time summer league All-Star in baseball was that he simply loved being in “the game,|” – any game. It didn’t matter if a contest was played indoors in a gymnasium, on a tennis court, football or baseball field or simply in the backyard, Taylor loved to compete and loved being a part of the competition. He still does! That is why today, the son of James D. and Cloteal Taylor of Jonesboro, is still active in multiple high school sports activities Not only is he active but still excels at what he does and actually appears to be getting better with age.
“I was fortunate to be raised by parents who taught me that to get what I wanted I had to work for it,” said Taylor. “I applied that to playing sports when I was young, still live by that today and try my best to teach that to the players that I coach.”
Before this past football season he was already considered one of the best defensive coordinators in prep football circles after a 30 year career. This is evidenced by the fact that in 2018 and 2019, Taylor was named Defensive Coordinator (DC) of the prestigious Louisiana Gridiron All-Star Bowl game, leading his team to victory both times. As impressive as that is, it fails in comparison to what he accomplished this year as the DC for General Trass High School, formerly known as Lake Providence High. Wait a minute, you say! How does being a coordinator for a Class 2A high school rank above being the DC for an All-Star game that annually has the top senior players in the state participating?
Anyone who knows anything about high school football knows that for years, heck even decades, that General Trass High School is not what has been considered a prep football power. Your talking about a school where winning seasons are rare or at least was before Taylor got there. This past season the Panthers went 8-3 during the regular season, which is the third consecutive season the Panthers have had a winning season. That hasn’t taken place but just a few times in the long history of the school. Impressive right? How about this? Their appearance in the Class 2A semi-finals this past November is the first time that has ever taken place.
While his coaching resume is impressive indeed it is what he has accomplished as a LHSAA baseball umpire that is simply mind boggling. It all started at the Southside Ball Park in Jonesboro in 1982 when Jackson Parish Recreation Department Director Bobby Lolley asked the high school sophomore if he would help umpire the bases at a Dixie Youth game. Thirty nine years later he is regarded as one of the top umpires in Louisiana. Want proof? For 34 years Taylor has been an umpire out of the Monroe region for the LHSAA, the last decade being assigned only to the top games of the week. During that time he has been requested to umpire over 200 playoff and 11 state championship games. From 1994-99 he also umpired SWAC conference games and was selected to call the 1997 exhibition game between the New York Yankees and Grambling State University.
For nearly 50 years now athletics has been a driving force in Taylor’s life. Whether it was running around on a basketball or tennis court as a youth, standing on the sidelines as a football coach or behind home plate on a baseball field in his latter years, that burning desire to be associated with competition has always been the same. He may no longer play the game, but the game is and always will be in him.