August 14, 2010 11:09:00 PM
FULTON -- Jon Williams willingness to fire himself shows he has bought into a fresh start at Itawamba Community College.
Williams'' decision to relieve himself of his duties as offensive line coach was difficult, but the new ICC football coach realized when he replaced Jeff Terrill things needed to change.
So the 15-year veteran coach gave up his love and has taken on the responsibilities as the team''s new coach of the running backs.
By bringing in four new coaches, Williams'' goal is to help change the culture and attitude of a program that slipped to 3-6 in 2008 and to 2-7 last year.
The finishes led to the departure of Terrill, who is now the football coach at Starkville Academy.
Williams, who had just completed his third season as a member of Terrill''s staff, inherits a program that is eager to buy into a new way of thinking and doing things.
The mind-set starts from the top.
"The biggest thing is making sure our kids forget about everything that has happened the last few years, and think more about the type of legacy they''re going to leave," Williams said. "I think our returners have been really, really resilient in the fact they have bought into what we''re doing. That is our motto for this year: Buy in. If these guys will buy in to what we''re selling and what we''re trying to do, at the end of the season we can cash in."
Williams'' foundation with the players has been established. The Indians have been hard at work since early June and are eager to play Hinds C.C. at 7 p.m. Sept. 2 at home to open the Williams'' era.
Sean Cannon (defensive coordinator/assistant head coach), Gabe Fertitta (offensive coordinator), Alex Atkins (offensive line/tight ends), and Charlie Wilburn (defensive line/co-special teams coach) also are new to the staff and excited to help the Indians regroup to challenge East Mississippi C.C. atop the North Division in MACJC.
Williams said the returning players and everyone associated with the program will have to have short memories if they hope to correct the slippage that occurred in the program the past two seasons. He said the effort to change the culture across the board has gone well.
"Coach Terrill did some great things while he was here (eight years)," Williams said. "I think the thing we have done different that we didn''t do in the past is we have put a tremendous focus on unity -- unity as a staff, as a team -- and we have tried to involve our players in our family, not our football family, but our families as coaches.
"That is a big difference. I think we have put in more and worked harder. It is no secret that in this business, and coach Terrill and I talked about this one time, when you''re at a place for so long, people get tired of listening to you and it is time for a fresh voice and a fresh face."
Williams said it wasn''t difficult "to fire" himself as offensive line coach but that he did it because he wanted a new perspective to help to change the climate in the program.
The re-assessment included a look in the mirror at how he did things.
"There was a lot of soul searching to figure out how we could get this thing turned around," Williams said. "Some tough decisions had to be made in regard to the staff. Part of it was me stepping away from my passion -- offensive line play -- to a different arena and coaching a skill position.
"A lot of times in this business we get complacent, and we get real comfortable. As a coach, when you get complacent that is when you smell trouble."
Williams said he is "out of comfort zone" and has had to "dig deep into the bag" to learn about the running game and the techniques he uses to teach those players.
The returning players believe the new atmosphere in the program has helped bring everyone closer together.
"I like the way he ran things. He is a good coach, and I feel he can make this a better team," sophomore defensive lineman Anthony Coleman said. "He has brought in good people and good coaches and good players."
Said sophomore defensive lineman Jimmie Williams, "The coaches show they love you and they treat you like you are their son. He treats the whole team the same way. Everything is positive."
The new players even see the difference. They heard the stories about the past couple of seasons and are excited to get an opportunity to help transform the program.
"It seems like the whole team has been buying in," freshman Erik Buchanan said. "We''re getting after it a lot more. From what I see, we''re out there with a sense of urgency and really want it."
Said freshman Justin Rogers about buying in, "It just means everyone puts in 200 percent to what they''re doing, whether it is on the field or in the classroom, and that they''re dedicated to doing it. In the past couple of months, everyone has been doing good, working hard, and studying hard. I feel we are ready."
Williams has had plenty of experience as a coach in previous stops at Mississippi College, Wingate University (N.C.), East Central C.C., and Wayne County High School. He believes his primary job is to set the example and to show everyone in the program that he has bought in and is ready to do whatever it takes to make things happen. If everyone follows suit, Williams believes the Indians will be winners.
"I think the players have seen coach Williams is doing his job and he is letting everybody else do their job, which I think is part of them seeing that I have bought in to who I have hired," Williams said. "I hope that will translate to them buying in to our system and to our philosophy."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.