Washington Evening Journal
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Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 25, 2018

Williams' college days were about Thanksgivings

Holiday meant team was in playoffs
Aug 23, 2018
KELLY WILLIAMS

By Doug Brenneman, JOURNAL Sports

 

It is important to set goals in sports and work to achieve them.

When Washington High School assistant football coach Kelly Williams was playing at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, his teams always had a goal -- have the family come to the school for Thanksgiving.

Of course there was an ulterior motive.

”We always wanted to be in Maryville on Thanksgiving. That way you knew you were in the second round of the playoffs,” Williams said.

It was a goal that the Bearcats often achieved.

Williams played strong safety for Mel Tjeerdsma. In his 27 years as a head coach, Tjeerdsma compiled a career college football record of 242–82–4. He led the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats to three NCAA Division II Football Championship titles (1998, 1999, and 2009) and four additional NCAA Division II titles games (2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008). In 1994, his first year at the school, he went 0-11.

“He was a fantastic coach,” Williams said. “I learned a lot playing for Lloyd Sisco here in Washington and even more under Tjeerdsma.”

Williams is starting his fourth year sharing his knowledge with the Demons. He helps with the running backs, defensive backs and the junior varsity

Demons head coach James Harris says Kelly does “anything and everything.”

Williams graduated in 2001 from Washington, where he started varsity as a freshman cornerback on a team that made it to the state semifinals in 1997.

“We lost to a great Decorah team in the UNI-Dome,” Williams said.

His sophomore through senior year, he played quarterback and some defensive back.

“I know when I was playing they said the population of Washington doubled when we played Mount Pleasant,” Williams said. “When Todd Miller (who played at Iowa State University) played for Mount Pleasant, we played them in a playoff game here and they put up more bleachers.”

He graduated college with a degree in corporate recreation with a minor in coaching.

“I told my wife when I was done with school if she got the job opportunity, I would follow her,” Williams said. “That took us to Kansas City where we lived for seven years. I worked with the arena football team down there. It was a lot of fun.”

Williams was player personnel director. He wrote some player contracts. He was in charge of housing incoming players.

“Once a player got to town, we had to come up with places for them. So I set those contracts up with local rental places,” Williams said.

The birth of a daughter changed things.

“Having grown up in Washington, I knew Kansas City was not where I wanted to raise a family,” Williams said. “Granted, it’s a great place to live but I wanted to come back home.”

It didn’t take long before Williams was being recruited to help coach the Demons.

“I just couldn’t do it because of my job at the time,” Williams said. “I was working out at a local farm and I just could not swing it during harvest.”

Once again family helped shape a decision.

“Now I’m working with my dad here in town as a local contractor,” Williams said. “That gives me a little bit more flexibility. I am glad I made that choice.”

He expressed his appreciation to the powers that be at WHS for letting that happen.

“That is one of the great things about the school district at Washington, that they allow coaches that are not teachers,” Williams said.

Not only does that help the coaching staff, it shows great role models for youth.

“It provides examples for the kids other than teachers,” Williams said.

Family also is there for Williams because his brother, Nic, is the offensive line coach. They are both on the fire department with another family member.

“My dad‘s been on it for 25 years,” Williams said.

Football and life are intertwined for Williams and there is a reason for that.

Hard work in either one brings awesome results.

“I started for four years in college,” Williams said. “I was not the fastest guy but I worked and I worked. I didn’t have a roommate. I knew what would happen if I did. I know what college kids want to do and I probably studied more game film than I did doing homework.”

Attitude and heart matter a lot more than talent.

“How hard you have to work to succeed is what makes football relevant to life,” Williams said.

His college team finished third in the conference so every playoff game was on the road.

“And we won them all but that last one and we were only four minutes away from winning that one,” he said.

“Knowing what we went through during the season when we lost a couple of conference games and then the run we went on to get to the championship, that was really special,” Williams said.

Getting to the title game was memorable.

“We beat a really good North Alabama team in the semifinals with a last-minute offensive drive,” Williams said.

His favorite part of playing football was the camaraderie with teammates.

“Being in the locker room when there’s 70 to 80 other guys there and you know how much work you have put in together, what you are willing to do for your teammate and what that teammate is willing to do for you, I would argue there is not a greater feeling than running out on Case Field or in my case, Maryvale,” Williams said. “Friday night lights are awesome but Saturday night lights compares very well.”

A football team takes a group of individuals from many different backgrounds and molds them into a cohesive unit. They have to put in the hard work in practice for the right to come out on Friday night.

“To see what they can accomplish, it amazes me,” Williams said. “I have seen that myself playing here, I saw that at Northwest and I’ve seen that coaching.”

Williams’ most memorable moment coaching was in a junior varsity game when the class that are now seniors were sophomores.

“We played a very talented Oskaloosa team here and we were down by 14,” he said. “They never gave up. We came back and took the lead, but we ended up losing. I told the guys after how proud I was of them that they just never gave up. I know it was a loss but it was the feeling of watching the guys never give up. Being down 14, the coaching staff was always encouraging.”

Williams believes there is more to football than the size of the player. “I think it’s about heart. That and you have to understand the game.”

He is happy he is back in his hometown because he knows the kind of people who live in small-town Iowa.

“It takes a community to have a successful program,” Williams said. “I want to thank all the players I’ve had the privilege of coaching and the parents because we ask a lot of the players and that means we’re asking a lot of the parents too.”

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