New NFL Coach learned Faith, Family, and Football at Benedictine

Coaching in the NFL at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, might seem a long way from Larry Wilcox Stadium at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

But for Chris Tabor, Benedictine class of 1993 and now Interim Head Coach of the Carolina Panthers, it seems like a natural progression.

Tabor became head coach of the Panthers on Nov. 27 and the team introduced him in a “1-on-1” interview Nov. 29, watchable on YouTube here.

Tabor introduced the NFL world to “Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. It’s home to Amelia Earhart right there on the Missouri River,” he said.

Benedictine is “a small school that had a lot of success. I played for a great legendary hall of fame coach, Larry Wilcox. He just retired a few years ago. I knew I wanted to get into coaching and that place allowed me. I had an opportunity to play and have some success.”

Indeed he did “have some success” at Benedictine. Tabor led Raven Football to a 19-5 record as the starting quarterback in the 1991 and 1992 seasons. Tabor’s team won the Steamboat Bowl in 1991, the inaugural Heart of America Athletic Conference championship in 1992, and reached the Final Four of the NAIA National Championship.

Wilcox, whose football career at Benedictine made him the winningest coach in Kansas, said of the Benedictine College hall of famer: “Chris Tabor was one of the finest players I had the privilege of coaching.”

In his Panthers interview, Tabor spoke about how his father led him in football and in life. “I grew up as a coach’s kid. My dad was a longtime high school football coach,” he said. “God rest his soul. He’s in the Missouri high school hall of fame and really he is my idol.”

Tabor said, “I always wanted to be my dad, and that’s really what I strive to be. I hope he’s looking down form heaven right now smiling.”

Speaking on campus two years ago, Tabor said his wife, Nikki, and his two daughters are his rock and that he and his Raven Football team members are still in constant communication — so much so that at one NFL practice, other coaches were afraid that there was an emergency when Tabor’s phone kept dinging with messages that turned out to be just a vigorous group chat from his old teammates.

“It’s about family and it’s about brotherhood,” he told the Hall of Fame Banquet, and ended by sharing emotional news about his extended family’s battles with cancer, calling them “the real hall of famers.”

Tabor was awarded Benedictine College’s Young Alumni Award in 2011, and shared how Benedictine College shaped his life through its mission of community, faith and scholarship.

“Benedictine College is a very special place,” he said, and appreciated the college’s commitment to the Catholic faith. “Regardless of where you are, regardless of what you’re working at, you were put on this earth by God. We’re all trying to get to a better place,” he said.

He makes it a point to connect with the faith of his players who he sees at Mass or chapel services.

Faith comes in handy in the NFL, Tabor said. “If we don’t win, we know that we’re probably going to get let go. You’re nervous and you rely on your faith. The Good Lord will take care of you.”

When that happens, he says, “I always say, ‘Everything’s going to work out because it has to.’ It has to because you know deep down that the Good Lord has put you in that spot for a reason. Don’t try to figure it out … maybe you’re there to make an impact in someone else’s life. You just never quite know.”

“I have a strong devotion to Our Lady and find time to say the rosary,” he added.

Tabor’s dedication to faith, family and football is well known at the college. President Stephen D. Minnis said Tabor’s approach that puts players first is a hallmark of Benedictine College’s mission of community, faith and scholarship.

“I am so glad the NFL is introducing the world to the Chris Tabor we know and love,” he said. “He’s a man committed to his faith and to his players. We had a special session with him a few months ago where he helped the whole leadership team of the college understand how to develop young people into leaders.”

Minnis added: “Chris Tabor is proof that our plan to Transform Culture in America through the Benedictine mission is not only possible, it is what the world needs right now.”

Tabor said President Minnis’s leadership has been key to the college’s success. He said coming back to campus is “unbelievable.” “When we look at the dorms and the new academic buildings and the grotto, it’s beautiful. These changes take place, but you can still sense that the values of Benedictine have not changed. To me that’s a great dynamic. You’re enhancing the beauty of the campus and people are coming, but they’re coming because of those values. That’s a great feeling.”

Photo: Todd Nugent, Benedictine College

Benedictine College

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is honored to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal, and one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. Benedictine College is dedicated to transforming culture in America through its mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.