Soul Camp: Tommy Taggart looks to be key in a new era of Soul football
MOORESTOWN - Steve Young replaced Joe Montana and made the NFL Hall of Fame, Aaron Rodgers replaced Brett Favre and has a Super Bowl Ring as well as an MVP award. While it may seem a team has it’s best option on it’s current roster, sometimes it takes a new player like Young or Rodgers to push the team to its peak. Fullback Tommy Taggart seems to have a similar situation with the expectation for him to be the starting fullback for the Philadelphia Soul this season. The position has been filled by Derrick Ross since 2012, and Ross has consistently been the leagues best fullback.
“Philly is a great organization. I like the coaches and their attitude. This place has a history of winning and playing in the ArenaBowl and that's every guy’s dream,” Taggart said after the season’s first practice.
Taggart is entering his fifth season in the AFL, having spent time with Dallas, New Orleans, San Jose, and Pittsburgh before coming to Philadelphia. While Taggart may be new, he’s played with Shaun Kauleinamoku, Keith Newell, and Brandon Freeman in Pittsburgh.
“Last year we had a really good team, and part of being a good team is making friendships and having them carry over to the field, so a group of us came here. It’s a privilege to play with friends here,” Taggart said.
He also played with quarterback Dan Raudabaugh and offensive line coach Phil Bogle in 2010 with Dallas.
“He and I were teammates in 2010 (Bogle). I was very fortunate to have him there as a young player. He taught me a lot of his game, so to be here and not only have an old teammate but a friend, and now a coach and mentor is a great advantage for me and the offense, we are lucky to have him.
“Dan was teammates with me in '10 as well. He’s a great guy, and we are both from Texas. He’s a vocal leader, and you appreciate that because some quarterbacks are not.”
What Taggart lacks in running ability he makes up for in blocking and versatility, including the ability to play defensive end.
“In Arena you can only dress so many players, so you need a guy who can play both sides of the ball. I played defense in college and learned to play offense in Arena. That doesn't mean I don’t miss defense, though. It’s always fun to tackle and hit somebody.”
Head Coach Clint Dolezel has always had the privilege of having Ross in the backfield. Ross isn't like most fullbacks in the AFL because he is a true running back, not an offensive lineman who has the ability to play fullback. There are not many true running fullbacks left, only Ross, Odie Armstrong, Taggart, and Mykel Benson, amongst others.
“In this offense, it’s a little different. I've always been a great blocker, and (Ross) has always been a great runner. I have the talent. I believe and I hope I can flourish like he did.
“Clint Dolezel is a great offensive mind. Any team he coaches is always one of the top rated teams for offense, so coming here is a privilege. It's great to be able to run the ball, to be able to put up points in a more direct way than blocking.”
New mac linebacker Beau Bell and Taggart have been going against each other so far during camp.
“Tommy is one of the best fullbacks I’ve faced in the AFL in my five years of playing. I’m excited to face him every day because I know it’s going to make me a lot better,” Bell said.
Center Shannon Breen and Taggart are responsible for protecting the middle and keeping Raudabaugh upright.
“Taggart is a great player. He’s been playing this game for five years, and he knows what he’s doing. He’s a smart guy and we are going to protect that middle together,” Breen said.
Tommy certainly has big shoes to fill, but the organization seems to have complete confidence that he will. Taggart and the Soul will have their first real test tomorrow with the team’s first practice in full pads.