Eric Taylor had all of the ingredients that make up a great football coach and leader on Friday Night Lights. He was passionate, committed to his team, and unflinchingly honest with his players. But his greatest talent was his ability to motivate a group of self-centered, angst-ridden teenagers to look beyond themselves and strive for a worthy goal on and off the field. And because of that, he’s the voice we wish we all had in our head, pushing us to run that extra mile, work that extra hour, or take that extra step to achieve our dreams.
Here are eight motivational Eric Taylor lines for when you need the ultimate pep talk.
“I said you need to strive to be better than everyone else. I didn’t say you needed to be better than everyone else. But you gotta try. That’s what character is: It’s in the try.”
Coach Taylor often pushed his players to their breaking point in order to build a legacy at Dillon High School but he also knew that being better than your peers wasn’t the most important thing. There’s greatness in struggle and, if anything, the journey to improving yourself is what’s important, not the end destination. That didn’t mean that he didn’t put his players through two-a-days in the Texas heat to improve their skills or subject them to deafening, angry rants when they bungled a play, but he did recognize when they were making an effort and giving their best because, really, that’s all anyone can do.
“You listen to people that love you and you listen to people that you trust. Most of all, you listen to yourself.”
Eric Taylor was a man unto himself. He rarely paid heed to the opinions of others — living in a small Texas town that was obsessed with football, he fielded plenty of opinions — and he never let what others thought direct his own course of action. It’s a good model to live by. Surrounding yourself with an honest circle of people who genuinely care about your well-being is the definition of squad goals, but being able to trust your own inner voice is what truly matters in life.
“Every man at some point in his life is gonna lose a battle. He’s gonna fight and he’s gonna lose. But what makes him a man, is that in the midst of that battle he does not lose himself.”
During his time as a football coach, Eric Taylor experienced plenty of loss. Some days, he had parents ready to stick his head on a pike and mount it in the middle of the field, Game of Thrones style. He faced intense pressure from the school, the fans, and himself to produce winning season after winning season. The only way he managed those high expectations was by having realistic ones of his own. Failure is a part of life and losing is par for the course. Chances are, if you’ve never lost at anything, you’ve never really achieved anything either. Taylor taught his boys that something good can come from loss: the opportunity to test what you’re made of and to measure your ability to bounce back.
“Stay away from dumb, gentlemen.”
When you’re dealing with hormonal teenage boys, preventing them from giving into their inherent desire to do idiotic things is a full-time job in and of itself. The opportunities to screw up, make mistakes, and ruin your life are ripe in high school but they follow you into adulthood as well. Coach Taylor did all he could to keep his players from becoming teen dads, being thrown in jail, flunking school, or getting involved with the wrong crowd, but we’ve all got to look out for ourselves. So put this line up on your mood board or tattoo it somewhere on your body — anything to remind you of one of life’s simpler rules.
“Opportunity does not knock. It presents itself when you beat down the door.”
Coach Taylor was many things — an overprotective father, a clueless husband, a terrifying football coach — but he definitely wasn’t the kind of person to wait on someone to open a door for him. Like his team, he fought for every win, every recognition, and every opportunity to advance his own career. His way of bulldozing through barriers and forging his own path is a good example to keep in mind the next time you’re trying to bust down those metaphorical doors or glass ceilings in your own life.
“You give 110 percent all the time, not just when you feel like it.”
Life, like high school athletics, requires sacrifice. There are going to be days when you feel like phoning it in. Maybe you’ve helped the girl you have a crush on cover up a murder or maybe you’re hooking up with the girlfriend of your best friend who’s now confined to a wheelchair. Both of those scenarios would probably leave you feeling pretty sh*tty about yourself — at least, they should — and not in the mood to give it your all on the field. Guess what? Eric Taylor gives zero f*cks. He knows that life caters to no one and that, in the end, feelings aren’t justifications for bad performances, lost games, or terrible choices. In other words, suck it up.
“Success is not a goal, it’s a byproduct.”
For a high school football coach, success might be defined easily: winning games, taking home a championship, seeing your players go off to college. But for Eric Taylor, success was never really the target. Did he want to win? Sure. Did he enjoy torturing his players by shouting angry, spit-fueled tirades in their faces when they screwed up? Definitely. Doing well matters, but it’s not the only thing that matters. Coach Taylor knew that as long as his players were striving to be better, on and off the field, that was enough. Something to keep in mind the next time you find yourself eating your feelings because you didn’t get that dream job or crying yourself to sleep because you still drive a beat up Pinto instead of a Porsche.
“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”
This is a mantra that every Friday Night Lights fan knows by heart and there’s a reason why. Coach Taylor often ended a rousing locker room speech with his famous motto and if you tell me hearing his players join in at the end of the chant doesn’t give you the tingles, you’re a liar. Eric Taylor was a simple man — he loved his wife, cared for his family, and enjoyed the sport of football. It makes sense that his lasting lesson — to approach everything with a clear head, with passion, and with a winning attitude — would be simple as well.