Former veteran Santa Monica College (SMC) head football coach Robert Taylor, whom colleagues say helped shape the lives of numerous players, including some NFL athletes, has died. He was 64.

Taylor died Thursday, October 22nd of natural causes, his brother Ed said.

After serving as Corsairs head coach for 15 years, Taylor was relieved of his coaching duties prior to this season amid alleged violations involving the football program and related to the changing of student residency status. He remained a full-time physical education professor at the college but had been out on medical leave this semester, SMC President Dr. Chui Tsang said.

Taylor began working at SMC as a physical education instructor and assistant football coach in 1984 and he took over as the school’s first African American head football coach in 1994, a job that Ed Taylor said was his brother’s life.

“That was his life; he loved football,” said Ed Taylor, adding that his brother had a “fabulous” career. “He lived for that job to be head coach.”

SMC assistant football coach Rory Barnett, who had known Taylor since 1991 and worked as his assistant for nine years, called the former head coach “truly a great person.”

“Anytime you were in Coach Taylor’s presence you were truly blessed,” Barnett said. “His wisdom and patience were unsurpassed.”

While Taylor had a strong passion for his coaching job, he enjoyed working with the players the most and taught them that football was only an avenue to a successful career, Ed Taylor said.

“He said that football was an avenue for these kids to move on to a better education, and education was the bottom line,” Ed Taylor said.

Barnett noted that Taylor had an impact on many young men who came from difficult backgrounds and he was known for giving them and others chances.

“For thousands of young men out there he helped change their lives,” Barnett said.

Among the athletes whom Taylor had a close mentoring relationship with are NFL players Steve Smith, Chad Johnson (now Ochocinco) and Isaac Bruce. Taylor received national media attention from ESPN and New York Newsday for his mentoring role and was named Coach of the Year by the Western States Conference Southern Division in 2003.

Taylor won more than half of his games as SMC coach. Gifford Lindheim succeeded Taylor as coach at the start of this season.

Barnett noted that the current team’s players were all recruited by Taylor and chose to dedicate their October 24th game in honor of their former coach. The Corsairs defeated West Los Angeles College 29-28 in that game.

Taylor was preceded in death by his wife Rachelle. He is survived by his brother Ed.

Funeral services are pending.