COLUMBIA – Rock Bridge boys soccer coach Kyle Austin says one of his favorite memories of senior captain Ryan Taylor was when Taylor dressed as an American patriot for school one day.
“I came out to practice and he’s sitting there warming the team up in his Thomas Jefferson outfit,” Austin said. “It’s things like that that make him the icon of the team. He’s always the one fully decked out and leading the team through everything.”
Rock Bridge (22-5)
at Rolla (16-9-2)
WHEN: 6 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Rolla High School
Winner advances to Nov. 13 state quarterfinals
According to Austin, Taylor’s leadership is what sets him apart from the rest of his teammates.
“He has this ability to lead people, which is a quality that a lot of people don’t have, and he intrinsically has it. People are naturally drawn to him, he is very charismatic and when he talks people listen,” Austin said. “Every teams needs a player like that and Ryan is that player.”
Taylor's leadership shows up in various ways. On the soccer field he is always full of energy whether he is on the field or on the sideline, and he is also one of the creators of the team slogan “Boomtown.” But his biggest contribution might be the humor he brings to the team. Austin says Taylor is “always in costume.”
“The team is full of personalities. But if you have to define one personality, it’s Ryan Taylor,” Austin said. “He’s the one who organizes everything, like what they wear to school the next day. But he’s the one who will take it to the extreme.”
The team dresses up at school for home games, but Taylor and fellow senior captain Brady Wulff decided to add in a twist for away games, creating a theme for the team. While some of the players might only wear one or two things, Taylor can be found completely decked out.
“Some of our themes have been cowboy theme, ‘Guido’ theme, where we all gelled our hair, one day we all wore really weird things like suspenders and bow ties and Wednesday was ‘dress like the coaches day,'” Taylor said. “We create the ideas to inspire.”
Taylor also played a big role in developing the nicknames that the players use for each other. Jonathan Gunter, one of the more reserved players on the team is called “Big Crazy.” Danny Baird is the self-proclaimed “Rock," and Matt Kelly calls Taylor “Boomtown." Ryan Stanowski is nicknamed “Stank,” and Brady Wulff is known as “Big Bad," as in “Big Bad Wulff."
“They were a team effort, a collaboration that we agreed upon,” Taylor said.
Taylor missed several games at the start of the season with a broken toe.
“It was tough for him as a senior knowing it’s his last season to play," Austin said. "But he’s always into it. He’s kind of an assistant coach for me, someone I can tell what to do and he pulls the guys together, instructs them like a coach would. He always gives 100 percent on the field and leads more through example than vocal ability. He’s always the first one to practice and knows when it’s time to have fun and when it’s time to focus.”
Taylor said his relationship with Austin has grown every year since he first met Austin as a sophomore.
“I really respect him. Now, this year I know him a lot more than just a coach, and since I’m his teacher’s assistant, I get to see him every day,” Taylor said.
Both Taylor and Austin agreed that their favorite part of the season so far was winning the district championship last Wednesday. The game went into overtime penalty kicks, Taylor making one of the decisive scores.
“When Taylor hit the PK, he had a look over exuberance on his face, like they were able to accomplish this task they set forth in the beginning of August,” Austin said. “Seeing him as happy and excited and not being able to contain himself was rewarding as a coach. He deserved it so much as did the other seniors.”