On April 20, 2011, the Auburn football program landed a verbal commitment from highly-touted Kentucky high school quarterback prospect Zeke Pike.
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound quarterback from Edgewood, Ky., picked the Tigers over Michigan, Arkansas, Clemson, North Carolina, Tennessee, Southern California, Purdue, Florida State, Miami and Penn State.
At the time of Pike’s verbal commitment, which was an enormous recruiting coup for Auburn, Pike was asked if he had been concerned about Auburn assistant coaches abandoning the team thanks to the possibility that the school’s football program could be hit with NCAA sanctions.
“They (Auburn) just won a national championship and they have one guy on their staff who left for the NFL and that’s their defensive line coach (Tracey Rocker). If they thought they were going to be in any kind of NCAA (trouble) I think a lot of their coaches would have left.
“Coach (Gus) Malzahn their offensive coordinator turned down $15 million to stay there (head coaching offer from Vanderbilt).
“Coach Trooper (Taylor), their receivers coach, turned down his favorite team of all-time, the Dallas Cowboys, to stay there.
“Whatever, let people say what they’re going to say. That’s a Mississippi State problem, that’s not an Auburn problem.”
Malzahn did receive a reported $15 million offer to take over the Vanderbilt football program, a long-noted coaching graveyard because of high academic standards and lacking facilities.
Pike’s statement about the so-called “Mississippi State problem” is a reference to the fact that Cam Newton’s father Cecil Newton has admitted to the NCAA that he solicited MSU coaches for a payment of up to $180,000 in exchange for his son signing to play football for the Bulldogs. (Cam Newton later committed to Auburn, obviously.)
Because of Cecil Newton’s admission, the NCAA rendered Cam Newton ineligible for one day, then reinstated him for the remainder of the 2010 season.
While Pike’s statement about Malzahn may or may not be accurate, at the very least it isn’t completely unreasonable. Likewise his supposition that Mississippi State may not yet be in clear with the NCAA as it pertains to the recruitment of Cam and Cecil Newton. After all, MSU didn’t report any NCAA irregularities involving Cecil Newton to the SEC or NCAA until after Cam had signed with Auburn.
In other words, even after MSU coaches knew of Cecil Newton’s NCAA violation - which directly involved Cecil’s solicitation of them - the Bulldogs tried to lure Cam Newton to Starkville to the very end.
But from what I was told by two sources inside the Dallas Cowboys organization today, Pike’s comment about Auburn wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor and the NFL team is dead, flat false.
Today two sources confirmed to me that Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett not only never considered Taylor for any position on the NFL team’s coaching staff, he was never in contact with Taylor about any manner of employment.
In fact, from what I’ve been told by a source familiar with Garrett’s thinking, Taylor might be the last person Garrett would hire for his wide receivers coaching position because of the well-chronicled, poor work habits of ex-Taylor protege Dez Bryant. (Taylor coached Bryant at Oklahoma State in 2008.)
On Feb. 11, 2011, Jimmy Robinson was introduced by the Cowboys as their new wide receiver coach and assistant head coach. In his remarks to the media, Robinson said that he had talked to Garrett about working together for the past decade, going back to when Garrett was a quarterback with the New York Giants and Robinson was an assistant coach with the club.
“I was enormously impressed with his (Garrett’s) work ethic. .. His preparation, his demeanor, the way he carried himself. .. We got to know each other pretty well (11 years ago). We kind of talked about down the line, if it ever happened that we might have a chance to work together, we’d like to do that (work together). The opportunity came and here we are.”
Robinson thought so much of Garrett that he immediately left his job with the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers to take the wide receivers and assistant head coach positions for a team coming off a 6-10 season.
Cowboys head coach Garrett to the Dallas media about newly-hired Robinson and ex-Patriots strength coach Mike Woicik on Feb. 11, 2011:
“Each of these guys I have some connection to in my past. Each of them I have tremendous faith and trust in as people and coaches. I think they’ve been at different times in their career at the top of their field. We feel that’s the guy we’re getting. I have a great comfort level with each of them and I’m excited to have them a part of our staff.”
This isn’t all to say that Taylor directly told recruit Pike that he turned down a job opportunity with the Dallas Cowboys because he wanted to remain with the Auburn football program. Though Taylor is indeed known to be such a fan of the Dallas NFL organization that he told reporter Jay G. Tate of the MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER on June 17, 2009 that his daughter Starr was named after “the side of the helmet of the Dallas Cowboys.”
But if Taylor didn’t lie to Pike about a job offer from, as Pike put it on April 20, “Coach Trooper’s .. favorite team of all time“, where did Pike get the idea to make a claim that I’ve since confirmed through multiple sources within the Cowboys organization to be completely inaccurate?