News Column

Six Degrees of Separation for Harbaugh Connections

Jan. 25, 2013

Joey Johnston

First-year University of South Florida football coach Willie Harbaugh -- oops, make that Willie Taggart -- plans to attend Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.

How could he not?

"Sometimes, it is like my name is Willie Harbaugh," said Taggart, laughing, on Wednesday. "That's the way it feels. I feel like they're part of my family."

So, as the world focuses on Jim Harbaugh's San Francisco 49ers playing John Harbaugh's Baltimore Ravens on Feb. 3 -- the first brothers to be opposing head coaches in a Super Bowl -- Taggart has one of the best vantage points.

He has seen this story develop from the beginning.

For Taggart, it began in 1994, when he was recruited to play quarterback for Western Kentucky University coach Jack Harbaugh, the family patriarch. Jim, then quarterback for the Chicago Bears, helped the sales pitch by visiting Taggart during lunch at Bradenton Manatee High.

"From the moment I met Jim, I felt like I had known him my whole life," Taggart said. "He was so real, so genuine. We had a lot of the same traits. Ever since I came across the Harbaugh family, my life has done nothing but take off."

Jim Harbaugh was best man in Taggart's wedding -- and Taggart was in Harbaugh's wedding. Taggart became an assistant coach on his staff at Stanford University.

Meanwhile, John Harbaugh helped Taggart receive an NFL coaching internship with the Philadelphia Eagles that "really helped put me where I am today."

Taggart still gets advice from the Harbaughs' father and even Indiana University men's basketball coach Tom Crean, who married Joanie Harbaugh, the sister.

"It's a special thing, and I'm a very lucky guy," Taggart said. "If I can be the kind of man, the kind of coach, the kind of husband that they are, then I know I'm going in the right direction. I know none of them would ever steer me wrong, and I would do anything for any of them.

"So, with all that we've shared, yes, I am very, very excited about this Super Bowl. It's amazing that it has happened -- and it almost happened last year, too -- but they both deserve it."

Last year, both brothers lost in conference championship games. This year, both won.

Taggart expects the Super Bowl to be "hard, but fun" for the Harbaugh brothers.

"These guys have worked hard and never wavered, no matter what anybody says," Taggart said. "They both deserve to be world champions, but only one can do it. That's what makes it hard, but that's also what makes it fun.

"These guys are ultra-competitive. I can't wait to watch them compete. I think it's going to be one of the most exciting Super Bowls in history. At the end of the day, they both love each other and nothing is going to change that."

That's the way it is for a family, even at the Super Bowl.

So says Willie Harbaugh.

Make that Willie Taggart.

"Well before this game happened, I was honored to be associated with the Harbaugh name," Taggart said. "When good things happen to people you love, you can't help but be excited. Hey, let's play the game and may the best man win."


Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2013 the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.)

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