Taylor High School scored legendary George Gilbert as the new varsity head coach of the football team earlier this year.
After spending nearly four decades coaching for high schools around the Midwest, Gilbert decided to pursue Taylor after former coach and friend Dennis Bentzler retired.
Though the Titans have struggled in the past, Gilbert isn’t deterred by the numbers. While at the helm, he hopes to “find the light” and bring up the team.
“I’ve never walked into a program that was just reeling in success with 60 kids every year,” Gilbert said. “It’s always been, ‘Start with nothing, in the black hole. Now we have to find the light.’ I don’t know if Taylor is quite there, but Taylor has struggled. They’ve had six winning seasons in 51 years. I don’t know if we can help them make a change. It’s going to depend on the community, but we’re going to give it our best shot.”
Gilbert has been involved with football ever since he was 10 years old. After graduating from Rensselaer Central High School, he attended St. Joseph College and played football as the starting linebacker where he blew out his knee during his freshman season. He continued his education and football career at Manchester University where he graduated in 1977 and immediately began coaching football.
“Originally, I didn’t know what coaching was going to be all about,” Gilbert said. “Football has been very important. We were extremely poor. My father had a heart attack when I was in ninth grade, and we lived in utter poverty. My mom never worked, so football was an avenue to get me out of the mills, out of Gary, and driving a truck like the rest of my family. I wanted to go to college and get a degree so I wouldn’t have to deal with the toils of being a blue-collar guy.”
Football has been a bittersweet part of his family life, due to both his parents dying and two of his kids being born during football season, he said.
Gilbert’s career began in fall 1977 at Wayne Trace High School in northwest Ohio where he worked first as an assistant coach for two years and then as head coach for five years. From there, he returned to Indiana and coached at Pioneer Jr./Sr. High School for two seasons and then Clinton Central Jr./Sr. High School for 20 years. He resigned from his latest coaching position at Tri-Central High School after nine seasons to allow the assistant coach the opportunity to take over the program.
During his time at Clinton Central, Gilbert coached the Bulldogs to a 121-94 record, as well as to three sectional championships. After taking on Tri-Central’s three straight 1-9 seasons, Gilbert built the Trojans from a winless season in 2009 to a three-win season in 2010, a six-win season in 2011, and eventually to four straight seasons of 10-plus wins from 2012 to 2015 that included three consecutive Hoosier Heartland Conference (HCC) championships and a 2013 Class A state championship win.
Gilbert, with a current coaching record of 222-176, was also one of the two national finalists for the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award in 2013 and was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 2017.
According to Gilbert, his success would have never happened without the athletes and the communities he was a part of. In his book, “A Team of One: We Believe,” Gilbert described the Tri-Central “rags to riches” story, crediting the involvement of the coaches, families, and athletes for bringing about the success of the football program.
“It’d be neat to see this happen over here at Taylor,” Gilbert said. “But my job is just to orchestrate. I am not the go-to guy. I’m not egocentric. I believe it’s going to be the job of the community to decide, and the kids, that this is what they want. If so, we’ll move in a positive direction. We have to field a team, and beyond that, we want them to get better and stay throughout the season and play healthy instead of getting hurt. These are some of the objectives that I have. Winning and losing always takes care of itself. I’ve won a lot of games, and I’ve lost a lot of games. It’s a rollercoaster. I’ve never allowed myself to think I’m more important than the game or the people.”
Ryan Johnson, Taylor High School’s athletic director, commented on Gilbert’s hire.
“Taylor feels fortunate to have Coach George Gilbert as our new head football coach. Coach Gilbert has a track record of success at his previous schools. We are looking forward to seeing him and the Taylor Titans in action this fall,” Johnson said.
The Titans kick off the season with a scrimmage against the Oak Hill Golden Eagles at home on Aug. 16 at 7 p.m.