During nearly 35 years heading William and Mary’s football program, Jimmye Laycock’s coaching tree has become extensive. It’s diverse, too, from Mike Tomlin’s Super Bowl ring in Pittsburgh to Matt Kelchner’s nearly perennial conference championships at Christopher Newport University.
The most-quickly growing branch of late has been in the Bay Rivers District. Of the five head coaches who have come on board the past three years, four have William and Mary ties.
“A lot of guys have made it in the coaching profession from here and you’re proud in that regard,” said Laycock, who has guided the Tribe to FCS national semifinals twice in the past nine years. “You’re happy when good people get opportunities and make the best of them.”
Andy Linn of Lafayette was the first of the current crop of W&M alumni to land a Bay Rivers District head-coaching job, hired in 2011 after Paul Wheeler resigned. He is the only one of the four to have played extensively for the Tribe, subbing on the offensive line for three seasons before starting in 1989 as a senior.
“He was a good, tough, solid player,” Laycock said. “He’s stayed pretty close to the program and helped out with our football camp at times.
“I’m glad he got his chance and I’m not surprised he’s doing well. He has a solid understanding of football and of young men.”
Linn’s first two Lafayette teams won 18 of 23 games, tying for the Bay Rivers title a year ago. Linn credits the Rams’ success in large part to lessons learned from Tom Brattan, his line coach at W&M, and Laycock.
“Coach Brattan taught me the importance of getting five offensive linemen to play together, trust one another, hang out together and become friends,” Linn said. “Coach Laycock was a tough coach, and you had to be on your P’s and Q’s around him.
“Jimmye did a heck of a job because at William and Mary we didn’t have a lot of blue-chippers. He brought in a lot of smart student-athletes who were willing to work to get better.
“You’ve pretty much got to do the same thing at a school the size of Lafayette: Take kids who are willing to work to turn themselves into football players.”
Recent Grafton hire Matt McLeod had the most high-profile W&M position among the new Bay Rivers coaches, having spent the 2005 and ’06 seasons as Tribe defensive coordinator after four seasons as a position coach (mostly of linebackers). While he spent the past three years coaching the high school football team at Deep Run in Henrico County, the Tribe influence will be strong at Grafton.
“William and Mary football was about concepts like accountability and responsibility,” McLeod said. “Fundamentals were always stressed, and that’s something I’m going to emphasize with Grafton.
“A particularly great time there was being part of the 2004 team that was the first at the school to reach the national semifinals and play the first night game. What I’m most proud of is that we were the only (Division I) team that year to win 11 games and have a 100 percent graduation rate.”
Obie Boykin, who was recently named the interim head coach at Warhill, said that the intellectual approach to the game the coaches took made learning football at William and Mary a great experience. Boykin was on the Tribe roster from 2005-07 as a quarterback and wide receiver.
“What you learn there lends itself to coaching, because you’re learning in the film room and on the chalkboard where it gets to upper-level complexity stuff,” Boykin said. “Coach Laycock was a good head coach because he delegated well, which is something you don’t understand until you get in this position.
“I saw all of the hats he had to wear as a head coach: with the media, his staff, the school and administration, while taking individual responsibility for the position he coached.”
Lee Williams, who’s entering his second year as Jamestown’s head coach, got to see two sides of the program during his time at William and Mary. Inspired by a chat with McLeod, Williams made the Tribe scout team as a sophomore, then served as a student assistant coach a year later.
The latter experience, in 2009, proved particularly beneficial for Williams. He admits a lot of what he did was grunt work — things like charting plays, setting up equipment for drills and myriad other small things — but he got a close-up look at a coaching staff guiding the Tribe within a hair of a national championship-game appearance.
“I went to every practice, traveled with the team, was in every defensive team meeting and worked with the defensive linemen,” Williams said. “It was a great experience seeing how all of that hard work paid off.
“I saw how coaches communicated with players, how they planned and how they took planning concepts to another level. It was a big influence on me.”
Said Laycock: “Lee worked hard, did anything he could do and did a nice job. You could tell how much he wanted to be a coach and how much he wanted to learn to coach.”
They teach that well at William and Mary, something that’s apparent at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field as well as Wanner Stadium and Bailey Field.Copyright © 2015, CT Now