From gridline to sideline: Ex-pro tackles new role as high school football boss

Sequoia Pathway Academy’s new athletic director and football coach Kerry Taylor [Bryan Mordt]
Sequoia Pathway Academy’s new athletic director and football coach Kerry Taylor [Bryan Mordt]

Sequoia Pathway Academy’s new athletic director and football coach knows all about taking it to the next level.

With a four-year stint in the NFL and successful coaching tenures at two other high schools, Kerry Taylor brings a wealth of knowledge and deep understanding of discipline, teamwork and dedication — all necessities for reaching new heights of success on the field.

Taylor has a keen eye for potential and sees a lot of it in town.

“I’ve always known about Maricopa and seen how the city is growing,” he said. “There’s a ton of talent out here.”

And Taylor should know a thing or two about talent.

He was a wide receiver at Arizona State University from 2007 to 2011, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies.

He wasn’t drafted out of college, but the hometown team didn’t want to miss out on a potential hidden gem. The Arizona Cardinals signed Taylor as a free agent in 2012. Two years later, he signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

He also played with the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings during his four-year career.

Taylor replaced Donnie Margerum at Sequoia Pathway with hopes of building a competitive athletic program that can make a mark at the national level — and replicate that success year after year.

Taylor was also a standout wide receiver at Arizona State University. [submitted]
He began his coaching duties at the charter school in March and was dubbed athletics director last month.

When he saw the opportunity to work with staff like Principal Rehema Stephens, Taylor was eager to take the challenge.

“I’ve already seen a major change,” he said. “I saw Principal Stephens’ vision and how it aligned with mine.”

As football coach and athletic director, Taylor will play a multifaceted role in the school’s athletic program.

One of his primary responsibilities will be recruiting talented staff and students to strengthen all the school’s teams. Taylor will engage with college coaches, facilitate campus visits and contribute to the recruiting process.

He looks forward to building on the school’s past successes.

“I definitely have my hand in a lot of pots, trying to make everything move smoothly and just keep building the momentum we have.”

Taylor places great emphasis on professionalism in every aspect of his athletes’ lives, whether in the classroom, the community or on the field.

“We want to be a true pro in everything that we do,” he said. “We want to represent ourselves well and have a high standard.”

Taylor said many students at Sequoia play multiple sports. He encourages this.

“The more they can do, the better,” Taylor said. “That’s going to help build their résumés as a student-athlete and draw more attention to themselves as they get recruited for the next level.”

Kerry Taylor, second from left, with his coaching staff at Sequoia Pathway during a summer workout. [submitted]
Drawing on his NFL experience, Taylor aims to instill discipline and personal accountability among the students, finding those who are willing to put in the extra effort and understand success requires going beyond the minimum requirements.

As Taylor settles in at Sequoia Pathway, he said he’s eager to watch the athletics program develop. Over the next year or two, he believes the school will set itself apart from others in the area, becoming a local powerhouse in all arenas.

“We’re ready to build and continue to grow,” Taylor said. “The sky is the limit.”


Kerry Taylor [submitted]
Kerry Taylor [submitted]
The NFL: a family affair


Taylor embodies a legacy deeply rooted in the rich history of the sport.

His father, Keith Taylor, and uncle, John Taylor, both competed in the NFL in the late 1980s, igniting Kerry Taylor’s passion for football.

Keith Taylor entered the big leagues as a safety when the New Orleans Saints selected him in the fifth round of the 1988 NFL Draft.

Keith Taylor [submitted]
He’d go on to showcase his skills for the Indianapolis Colts and then-Washington Redskins, spanning a nine-year professional career.

Prior to his NFL career, Keith Taylor honed his football abilities at the University of Illinois.
Now, the father-son duo can still be found on the gridiron as they lead the football program at Sequoia Pathway, where the senior Taylor is defensive coordinator.

Keith Taylor’s older brother, John Taylor, is a three-time Super Bowl champion.

John Taylor faced setbacks early in his career after an unsuccessful attempt to walk-on at Johnson C. Smith University in Salisbury, N.C. He then found a spot on the team at Delaware State University, where he set school records touchdowns with 42, 33 of them receiving.

John Taylor [submitted]
John Taylor [submitted]
The San Francisco 49ers drafted him in the third round of the 1986 NFL draft.

From 1987 to 1995, John Taylor’s career with the 49ers included three Super Bowl victories. In 1989, he caught the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl XXIII against the Cincinnati Bengals.

John Taylor finished his NFL career with 347 receptions for 5,589 yards and 43 touchdowns.

Past stops
Prior to his arrival in Maricopa, Taylor served as the head football coach at Scottsdale’s Arcadia High School in 2018 and 2019, combining for a 12-8 record.

Taylor inherited an Arcadia team amid a 16-game losing streak that saw just 29 points scored during the 2017-18 season. He led Arcadia to a 6-4 record in his first season before he was fired for an alleged recruiting violation that resulted in a warning from the Arizona Interscholastic Association. After an uprising by Arcadia parents, the school apologized to Taylor and reinstated him for a second season.

Taylor then coached San Tan Charter School in 2020 and 2021, where he helped the team improve from 3-5 to 5-5. Taylor was fired again after the final game of the 2021 season after his players stomped on a pink breast cancer ribbon at midfield after winning on a rival’s homefield. According to published reports on the incident, the opposing coach’s wife had late-stage breast cancer and served as an honorary captain for the coin toss.

Taylor said he disapproved of the players’ actions that night and suggested he had already accepted an internship with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prior to his final game at San Tan.

“If I were to coach high school again, it was going to be with a principal that understands athletics at a high level,” he added. “I’m excited to work with and be under Ms. Stephens’ leadership.”

Rehema Stephens and Kerry Taylor. [submitted]
Dynamic duo
With Stephens taking on an administrative role and Taylor manning the athletics, the duo has big plans for Sequoia Pathway.

Raised in the heart of inner-city Oakland, Calif., Stephens excelled as a high school All-American athlete. She began her collegiate journey at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she reigns as the second-highest career scorer in women’s basketball.

After she graduated with a psychology degree, she turned pro. Stephens played overseas in Greece and Australia before joining the WNBA’s Sacramento Monarchs.

With their combined expertise, Stephens and Taylor believe they can show young athletes what’s possible when they put their best foot forward.

“I’m a huge advocate for athletes,” Stephens said. “And at the middle and high school level, it’s just another way for kids to buy into school. It’s motivation and inspiration.”

Stephens believes in creating well-rounded students first — and athletes second.

“I think we have created this wonderful balance where athletics and academics come together, and our kids can really thrive in their environment,” Stephens said. “Athletics has this pulse that just pushes you.”

Of Taylor, she said he’ll “expand his gifts and talents” and that “he’s going to change the dynamics of our athletic program.”


This story was first published in the August edition of InMaricopa Magazine.