CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — Sports mean so much more than x’s, o’s and final scores. That’s evident in Gene Taylor’s story.
At 75 years young, Taylor says he’s the Chattanooga Red Wolves’ biggest fan because the team gives him a reason to live.
“If you were to describe what the team means to you in one word, what would it be?”
Gene Taylor is a Vietnam Veteran, retired preacher and teacher, loving father, and a now Chattanooga Red Wolf.
After surviving life-threatening surgery, Taylor stays in shape by working out at the downtown YMCA. That’s where he met Chattanooga’s new soccer team, and almost instantly became part of the family.
“I felt so lonesome, and I felt like it was when I left Vietnam, and I said, ‘I have no friends,'” Taylor said. “Then I said, ‘Well, what can I do for the Lord?’ I said, ‘It’s nice to be nice.’ So, I just kept being nice.”
“He said to me, ‘You know, this is all I have. The YMCA is all I have. I come here. I swim, I work out, and I just talk to people.'” Red Wolves defender Richard Dixon said. “I remember saying to him, ‘The YMCA is all about family, and if we’re here, we’re family. So don’t be afraid to come up and talk to the guys and feel like you’re a part of the team and a part of the family. And he obviously didn’t hold back on that.”
The team invited him to a preseason practice. Then, he showed up as the loudest voice at the first game of the season.
“The next day, I couldn’t get out of the bed. I ran, and ran, and ran, because I was excited,” Taylor said.
“He’s always bringing that spark and that energy and he’s always excited, so I feel like that rubs off on people because it definitely rubs off on us,” Red Wolves defender Tony Walls said.
The Red Wolves certainly rub off on Gene.
“Boy, I fell in love,” Taylor said. “I said, ‘These guys are really, really nice.’ And it brought something back to me that I left in Vietnam.”
Since meeting the players, Taylor has not needed as much of his PTSD medication.
“Once he walks into the locker room, it’s impossible to not smile. He’s yelling and cracking jokes. You can see the preacher side of him come out,” Walls said.
“I love it. I love it. I love it. It’s like what I need. Something that the doctor cannot even order for you,” Taylor said.
Gene has nothing but wins ordered for the rest of the Red Wolves’ season.
“Now we come halfway passed the season, somebody’s in trouble and it’s not the Red Wolves. It’s not the Red Wolves. Because they are gelling. So they gelling, and I’m yelling,” Taylor said.
The Red Wolves come back home for their next game as they host FC Tuscon at David Stanton Stadium Saturday, July 27th.