Coach Taylor, Billy Riggins, and the Importance of Mentors

Have you heard of coach Eric Taylor? Coach Taylor is one of the best high school football coaches in the country, with multiple State titles on his resume. But, more importantly, he is a loving husband and father, and a mentor to many young men. He is also a fictional character on the television series, Friday Night Lights. My wife and I have been watching the show with our two oldest boys and during a recent episode, one particular scene really got my attention. It got me thinking about the importance of mentors.

I love Friday Night Lights. If I had to rank my all-time favorite shows, I’m pretty sure it would land in my top 5. I’ve watched the series all the way through a few times and recently, I decided to introduce it to my 18 and 16-year-old sons. They were hooked immediately. The show blends football, family, relationships, comedy, and drama and creates a perfect alchemy. Coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami are the backbone of the show. They are one of my favorite TV couples, mainly because of how real they feel. They aren’t perfect, but they are consistently self-sacrificing and forgiving. Beyond their marriage, they are leaders and mentors.

Billy Riggins

But the show is much more than the Taylors. The fictional town of Dillon, Texas (where the show is set) is populated by all sorts of interesting people. From the football players to their families, team boosters, other students, and friends, there is no lack of intriguing and emotionally engaging storylines. Perhaps the most entertaining of all these storylines are the various trials and tribulations of the Riggins’ family.

Tim Riggins is one of the star football players for the Dillon Panthers during the first three seasons of the show and one of the most charming and likeable characters in television history. He is also a bit of an idiot and his own worst enemy at times. His older brother, Billy, is equally idiotic and self-destructive, if not more so. Billy, though he is not remotely qualified, has raised Tim after their parents left. Their storylines are both hilarious and heartbreaking. By the end of Season Four, Tim is in prison, taking the fall for Billy who is newly married and has a young baby to care for. Both are fundamentally changed due to this.

Searching for a mentor

That sets the scene. Early in Season Five, Billy Riggins approaches Coach Taylor for a job on the coaching staff. At first, Coach Taylor is hesitant. He knows Billy. He has been around the Riggins for years and he simply doesn’t trust Billy. You can’t blame him. Billy has been a train wreck for most of this life. As Coach is about to let Billy down gently, Billy says this, ” I respect you. I just think it would be really good for me to be around someone like you right now.”

Those few words change Coach Taylor’s mind. He reluctantly agrees to bring Billy on the staff. But, he doesn’t do it out of pity. He does it because he sees the sincerity in Billy’s request. Billy desperately needs a mentor, someone to study, learn from, emulate. And while Coach doesn’t really see himself as some sort of perfect mentor, he realizes he does have something to offer to someone like Billy.

Find your Coach Taylor

“I just think it would be really good for me to be around someone like you right now.” How powerful would it be, how transformative in our lives, if we could summon the courage to find someone to say that to? How impactful could we be if someone approached us like that? No matter where you find yourself right now, you can fit one of those two roles. In fact, I would argue that you should do your best to fill both roles. Find someone who can teach and guide you. Be on the lookout for someone who needs that from you.

Proverbs 13: 20 tells us, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Seek wise counselors. Surround yourself with people of integrity, honor, and faith. Follow their lead. It would be good for you to be around someone like that. It’s good for all of us to be around someone like that. Find your Coach Taylor.

Be a Coach Taylor

On the flip side, maybe you are in a position to be a Coach Taylor to someone in your life. Keep your eyes open for those opportunities. They won’t always come gift-wrapped like Billy Riggins asking Coach to take him under his wing. Many of the football players in Friday Night Lights push against any advice or guidance from Coach Taylor, but he still works with them, guides them, and shapes them. Sometimes, we have to take the first step. Find your Billy Riggins. There is someone out there who needs to be around you right now. There is someone who needs you to be their mentor.

Final thoughts

I realize there is nothing groundbreaking here. Plenty has already been written about mentors. This isn’t revolutionary thinking by any means. But, reminders are good. I need to be reminded of all sorts of things and I figure I’m not alone in that. I hope this very simple example from a television show will spur you to find your own Coach Taylor. Or, that it will encourage you to become a Coach Taylor for someone else. “Iron sharpens iron” after all. We all need as much of that as we can get.

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Phill Lytle

I love: Jesus, my wife, my kids, my family, my friends, my church, Firefly, 80s rock, Stranger Things, the Tennessee Titans, the St. Louis Cardinals, Brandon Sanderson books, Band of Brothers, Thai food, music, books, movies, TV, writing, Arrested Development, pizza, vacation, etc...

2 thoughts on “Coach Taylor, Billy Riggins, and the Importance of Mentors

  • May 19, 2021 at 3:31 pm
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    I really like this. Some great advice here. Thank you.

    Reply

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