Story, photos and video by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Jimmy Williams’ resume as an NFL football player, college and high school coach, and one of the greatest defensive players in the Nebraska Cornhuskers history—is one anyone in the field would envy.
Now he’s the new varsity football coach at Pioneer High School, a role he says is an answer to prayer, and a new opportunity to help form the lives of young men for the better.
“I love this game,” says Williams, as the players walked to a practice field at Pioneer last week. “There’s more to it than just teaching Xs and Os. And ultimately what they become when they leave is really the measure of your coaching.”
Williams replaces Bill Bellers, who stepped down in December after four seasons. He takes over a program that has been among the best in the state, making it to the playoffs in 12 of the past 20 seasons.
But for Williams, his eagerness to coach at Pioneer has nothing to do with prestige or final scores.
He says his focus is on process rather than outcome, because the former takes care of the latter; and it’s about establishing a day-to-day culture.
Williams believes that coaching is a calling, and looks for opportunities for his team to incorporate life lessons such as preparation, problem-solving, cooperation, hard work, and resilience.
Varsity running back coach Brendan Vorobiav (“Coach V”) says Williams is a perfect fit for what Pioneer is trying to accomplish.
“A lot of us believe, including himself, that Pioneer has an elite academic and football history we are trying to redevelop here,” he says. “The culture he’s trying to instill reminds me of the successful days when I was playing here. The kids are really buying it, and it’s just really great to see.”
Pioneer Athletic Director Eve Clara says the Pioneer community is excited to welcome Williams as its new head football coach.
“Jimmy brings a wealth of experience at the college and professional level to our program,” she says. “He is an enthusiastic, positive role model for our young people. He is passionate about using football as a means to improve the lives of our students.”
Being a father of 10 (he and his late wife had six children, and his wife, Jameka, has four children) means he knows a thing or two about a child’s psyche and development.
“Anytime you’re working with young people you’re parenting to a large degree, and I’ve had years of doing that,” says Williams, who grew up in a family of six boys and two girls. “And I think that when you’re intentional, you grow through the years and you learn, and grow in wisdom. So I think it adds to and impacts me to be more effective with young people.”
Three of Williams’ children attended Pioneer High School before he took a job at Western Michigan University in 2016, and that’s when he first developed an admiration for the school which has only increased in the last couple of months.
Williams loves when players he coached years ago come by to see him, bringing their families and sharing stories that prove the correlation between teamwork and success.
“I’m extremely demanding, but extremely loving,” he says. “These are young men and they want to be coached. They want to be successful and they really do want to respond to a demand. But they also want to know that you love them, that you care about them, that you understand them. So relationships are the foundation, and it’s critical.”
He says he feels privileged every time he’s around the players because he has an opportunity to help them become better men, and better men for others.
“As I’ve grown, hopefully I’ve become a better coach,” Williams says. “I try to envision who he will be from my time with him 10 years from now, 15 years from now. That’s elite coaching to me.”