College Football: Livingstone’s Williams gets vote of confidence
SALISBURY — As a quarterback, Daryl Williams was pursued by 290-pound men eager to knock his helmet off — with his head still in it — but he faced an even tougher moment on a recent Monday morning.
Williams’ parents, who live in Memphis, were in Salisbury.
Two days earlier, they’d watched him work for the first time as Livingstone’s interim head coach at Alumni Stadium. They’d shared his joy as the Blue Bears took it to a pretty fair Fayetteville State team most of the afternoon. Then they’d shared his pain when Livingstone fumbled the game away in the fourth quarter.
Drop a game like that, and, well, it was nice to have parents in town. Parents love you win, lose or tie.
But now it was 10:30 a.m. on Monday and Williams was supposed to drive his parents to the airport in Charlotte to catch a 1 p.m. flight back home.
Only Williams’ phone was ringing, and on the other end was Dr. Jimmy Jenkins, Livingstone’s president.
Jenkins wanted to meet with Williams ASAP.
Williams looked at his parents. He preached commitment to his players, and he was committed to getting his family to Charlotte on time. On the other hand, you don’t keep the president of the college waiting.
“What could I do,” Williams said with a chuckle. “Dr. Jenkins wanted to talk. I didn’t have a choice.”
Thinking on his feet, Williams called an audible. Specifically, he called assistant coach Brian White, his right-hand man. White is the guy Williams trusts not just with Livingstone’s offensive line but with the running game.
White, a burly, bespectacled father of eight, was handed one more assignment.
“Coach White took my parents to the airport,” Williams said. “And I went to see Dr. Jenkins. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought maybe he wanted to talk about the Fayetteville State game.”
Fayetteville State, a game Livingstone led by 10 in the third quarter, had been a game not unlike two other CIAA games — encouraging in most aspects, but with a frustrating bottom line.
Livingstone also was in position to beat Virginia Union and St. Augustine’s, but while the Blue Bears desperately wanted to win, they weren’t quite ready to win.
When Williams arrived at Dr. Jenkins’ office, Jenkins got right down to business with, “Coach, what’s the gameplan?”
“My cards are all on the table,” Williams answered quietly. “I’ve come to work every day, this team has come to work every day, and this team is a lot better than last year. But that’s all I’ve got.”
It was enough.
Dr. Jenkins and AD Andre Springs believe they’ve found the man who’s going to make Livingstone a stout football program again, the way it was in the 1990s. Dr. Jenkins informed Williams he was no longer just the interim coach. Officially, he was now the head coach. It was his team and his program.
“What this means is I don’t have to look over my shoulder any more,” Williams said. “It means peace of my mind for our coaching staff. It means continuity for our players in a system that’s already in place. It means we can all relax and continue with the process we’ve started. It means we can go recruit and players we talk to will know who the coaching staff is going to be.”
Williams said he didn’t have to make a speech to his team about his new status. Word gets around. Good news doesn’t travel as fast as bad news, but it still travels.
The Blue Bears had to be relieved. They practiced hard last week, Williams’ first as the official head coach. They made a long trip to Lynchburg, Va., on Friday and won a convincing 43-12 victory on Saturday afternoon.
That win made the Blue Bears 3-7. Not anything to write home about, but they were a handful of plays from 6-4.
Remember, this is a team that used to be competitive only occasionally, so serious strides were made.
One of the worst defensive teams and most penalized teams in Division II in 2012, the Blue Bears were in the upper half of D-II teams defensively this fall, while the penalty yards declined sharply.
“Our players have been all-in from the first day,” Williams said. “We realize we’ve got to get better. We know we’ve got to stay focused for 60 minutes and finish ballgames. But we’re close. We’ve got a junior-dominated team, and we’re going to recruit hard. We need defensive linemen, linebackers and a punter. We’ll get them.”
Livingstone figures to be wiser, stronger and deeper in 2014. Williams won’t mind rising expectations.
“There were times this year I wasn’t sure teams even looked at film of us — they just figured they’d beat us because they always had,” Williams said. “We won’t sneak up on anyone, but we’ll keep progressing. I’ll find ways to be a better coach. We’ll all be better. A winning season is not an unrealistic goal.”
Livingstone didn’t win a home game in 2013, but a long overdue celebration is sure to happen in 2014.
Maybe Williams’ parents will get to see him win on their next visit.
“They’re big supporters,” Williams said. “ All season long, they’ve been telling me not to worry, that I was going to be the coach. I’m happy they were right. I’m very proud to tell people I’m the coach of the Livingstone football team.”