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Forsyth football coaches talk about love of the game

The Forsyth County News interviewed the county's high school football coaches to find out who’s behind the whistle patrolling the sidelines on Friday nights.

Shane Williamson, Forsyth Central

Why did you choose to be a coach? "It gave me the opportunity to never grow up completely. I fell in love with the sport at eight years old and I love it just as much today. I get to build relationships with young men and teach them how to be better citizens and help them be better men, fathers and husbands later in life."

What’s the best team you’ve coached against? "LaGrange’s 2003 team had some animals. I was at Swainsboro and they beat us, 2-0, in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs. Tray Blackmon forced a safety. We couldn’t do anything."

Who is the best player you’ve coached against? "Blackmon, easy. He was the total package you want in a linebacker: fast, aggressive, and boy, could he tackle." Tray Blackmon went on to play four years at Auburn University.

What advice would you give to an aspiring coach? "You’ll have people doubting you, both in your teaching and coaching, but you need a thick skin to stay on track. Also, get a dog. I’ve got an English bulldog, Duke, who loves to be rubbed and loves me no matter what anybody else says or what time I get home at night."

What advice do you wish you had known? "Trust your gut instinct. Stay with what you believe in and let that guide you."

Louis Daniel, Lambert

Why did you choose to be a coach? "I grew up around sports and loved the team aspect of it. I graduated high school and still had younger brothers playing, so I wanted to still be around. ... Once it takes hold, it doesn’t really let go."

Best team you’ve coached against? "The 2004 Lowndes team that beat [Sequoyah] in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs. We were 11-2 that year, but Lowndes ended up going 15-0. We had a rough night."

Best player you’ve coached against? "Toss-up between two guys: Timmy Byerly and Jayson Foster. Byerly took Chattahoochee to the [Class AAAA] state championship in 2010. It didn’t matter if it was 3rd-and-2 or 3rd-and-20, you still didn’t think you could stop him. Jayson played quarterback for Cherokee in 2001 and 2002, and you just couldn’t game plan him." Byerly is now at Georgia Tech. Foster won the Walter Payton Award [the FCS’s Heisman] for Georgia Southern in 2007.

Advice you would give to an aspiring coach? "One, if you’re going to date or get married, you need a strong, understanding partner at home. Two, remember that you’re working with young men. You don’t always know what they’re going through that day and your words can affect them."

Advice you wish you had known? "Be patient. Don’t expect everything to happen as fast as you want. What your players do on the field every play isn’t necessarily a direct reflection on you—it’s not always your fault."

Jason Galt, North Forsyth

Why did you choose to be a coach? "It happened by accident, really. I was playing football at UGA, and my parents knew the head coach of Cedar Shoals High School in Athens, Scott Wilkins, through church. I became an assistant coach there in 1995. My first year, we made the state championship game. I was hooked and later got my education degree."

Best team you’ve coached against? "Cartersville High School in 1999. I was coaching at Cass; they beat us bad [42-7]. That team went 15-0 and won the state championship in AA. A close second would be Parkview, at the start of their [46 game] winning streak in 2000."

Best player you’ve coached against? "Ronnie Brown, who played on that 1999 Cartersville team. I’ve coached some good ones too…the best would probably be Dunta Robinson at Clarke Central."

Advice you would give to an aspiring coach? "Learn that you’re not going to be big-time right away. Be willing to put in time, be patient and learn—if you do that, the coordinator and head coaching jobs will come."

Advice you wish you had known? "It’s not as easy as it looks. Lots of things go on behind the scenes that you don’t know about until you’re in that position. As a head coach, you know everything that goes on with your players—family, money, girlfriend problems—that nobody else knows. It can really influence the decisions you make."

Todd Winter, Pinecrest Academy

Why did you choose to be a coach?"I’ve never thought about not coaching football. I started playing in fifth grade in Indiana. That’s a basketball-crazy state, but I always loved football. I was the only one in my family who knew much of anything about football, so it was my ‘thing’ that I had to myself."

Best team you’ve coached against? "By far the best team I’ve faced was Hazelwood East, in the northern suburbs of St. Louis and one town over from Ferguson, Mo. My first year as a head coach [at Ritenour High School] was 1995, and Hazelwood East had 11 Divison I players—guys that played at Ohio State, Missouri, Wisconsin. ... They beat up on us."

Best player you’ve coached against? "Cortlen Johnson, a running back for Hazelwood East. He was so smooth running the football. [Cortlen] could be running full-speed and make it look totally effortless." Johnson played at Colorado from 1998-2001 and rushed for 2,199 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Advice you would give to an aspiring coach? "Understand that Xs and Os are important, but earning the trust and respect of your players and assistant coaches is crucial. If you do that, they will fight until the end for you. It can’t be false—they have to know you genuinely care for them. I love my players, and I tell them that."

Advice you wish you had known? "Check your ego at the door. I’ve been head coach for almost my entire career, but you’re not a big deal just because you’re the head coach. Do grunt work. Don’t order people around to do things for you. I learned ... that I’m really just another coach."

Adam Clack, West Forsyth

Why did you choose to be a coach?"It’s that team camaraderie, those relationships that are so unique and special. And then right there next to it is the competitiveness. I’ve competed all my life in something one way or the other. When my playing days were up, this was the next closest thing."

What’s the best team you’ve ever coached against? "I would have to say that 2011 Grayson team that won the state championship. They were just loaded at every position. I think they had upwards of nine Division I kids that just played defense. ... That team was a bear for sure."

Who is the best player you’ve ever coached against? "[Gainesville quarterback] Deshaun Watson. He slowed the game down more than any high school kid. Just the way he had full control of his offense. You could tell the coaches had given him the keys to the car so to speak."

Advice you would give to an aspiring coach? "Don’t be afraid, don’t ever be afraid, to ask questions. That was something that helped me along. I would get in the hip pocket of somebody that I thought I could learn something from and I soaked up as much as I could from them."

Advice you wish you had known? "Making sure that you understand that it’s not just football. You got to be ready to handle all the administrative stuff as well. Most coaches think it’s just football, but there’s a heck of a lot of the behind the scenes stuff that goes in to making a program run.

Jeff Arnette, South Forsyth

Why did you choose to be a coach?"I had a defensive coordinator in high school [C.W. Pemberton at Rockwood High School in Rockwood, Tenn.] who I looked up to tremendously. The effect he had on me, it just made me want to do the same thing, made me want to go into [coaching] and have that kind of positive effect on kids myself."

Best team you’ve coached against? "It would probably be a Lowndes team, or we played a team out of Lincoln, Fla., one year that had about 11 D-I signees. It’d be one of those teams."

Best player you’ve coached against? "Greg Reid, who went to Florida State and started as a freshman and returned kicks and started as a cornerback as a freshman. He played for Lowndes. He could do it all. … He impacted the game in every phase of it and he did it at a top-notch level in all three phases.

Advice you would give to an aspiring coach? "He’s just got to have an abnormal love for the game because of how much time that coaching football requires in today’s game. You absolutely have to love the game on a crazy scale because of the time you have to put into it."

Advice you wish you had known? "Probably that you never get over losing. It hurts just as much from the first loss to the end."

Charles Wiggins, Horizon Christian

Why did you choose to be a coach? "The reason I coach is because I love giving back to my community. Sports have been very high in my life. I coach Christian schools where I can present to them how you can be a good mentor and role model. And I just love being around those students."

Best team you’ve ever coached against? "I would have to say George Walton. Coach Williams over there is the best coach I’ve ever coached against. The 2009 team. We won the region championship at Pinecrest that year. We beat them 17-10 over there."

Best player you’ve coached against? "Georgia Tech running back Tony Zenon. He played for Deerfield Windsor Academy. He was the fastest guy that we ever faced."

Advice you would give to an aspiring coach? "I think they should be in it for the love of the game and to be role models for the kids. If they’re not in it for that, they’re in it for the wrong reasons.

Advice you wish you had known? "How to better relate my message. When I first started, I was more militaristic. Now, I know how to deal with different kids."