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PROFILE 2010: Andro Williams

If you pay attention to high school coaching rumors in the state of Alabama, Andro Williams’ name tends to pop up a lot. That happens when you are 35-5 in three years as a head coach and have never fallen short of the third round of the state playoffs.

But there is one thing most people plugged into those rumor mills fail to understand about Andro Williams. It is the thing that keeps him in Linden. His perspective on coaching football involves a lot more than offense, defense and special teams. It involves young men, their aptitudes, their opportunities and their culture.

“The mentality,” Williams says plainly. “We talk to our kids down here about changing their mentality as a whole so they can change somebody else’s mentality. We want them to have an opportunity to be successful here in Linden, to be successful when they leave out of Linden.”

It is that concern for his players, that investment in them, that has young men eager to play for him. It is his intention of improving them as people that inspires so many of them to alter their work ethic in the weight room and the class room. And that in turn — the Linden head football coach and athletic director explains — validates what he does as a coach.

“Sometimes you see kids who work harder than other kids. And that’s what we do is try to get these kids to be businesslike,” Williams said. “That’s what inspires me. That’s what helps keep what I do in perspective.”

To watch Williams run a practice or talk to his team in the locker room is to remove any question that he could find success in a place bigger with a job more financially lucrative than the one he has in Linden. But there is more to life and success for Williams than the number on his check at the end of each month.

“I’ve always told people that money doesn’t make me leave and money doesn’t make me come,” Williams says. “That’s not what makes me stay. Family is involved. The kids you’re coaching. All those things factor in.”

Williams has had opportunities to bolt for what some would consider greener pastures. He has gotten the phone calls from schools big and small. But the time or the situation has yet to be right for him to leave.

In fact, he was not exactly looking for a head coaching job when Linden called him in 2007. At that time, he was the defensive coordinator for the Sweet Water Bulldogs. The road to that point led the 1995 SWHS graduate through East Central Community College and to the University of West Alabama before he entered his student teaching at Thomasville High School.

At Thomasville, Williams was reunited with then THS head coach Stacy Luker, the man who served as his defensive coordinator when he was playing Sweet Water.

“I got an opportunity to stay in Thomasville, but I chose to go down to Clarke County,” Williams said of his first coaching job, a position he took in lieu of a head coaching offer at Georgiana High School. “If I had stayed in Thomasville, I would have had limited involvement as far as high school football is concerned. They didn’t have the opening at the high school at the time.”

So Williams took the Clarke County job for a year before the phone started ringing. Movement started to take place in the southern part of Marengo County and the northern part of Clarke County. Luker accepted the head coaching job at Sweet Water creating a Thomasville vacancy that was ultimately filled by Jack Hankins and — in the process — opening up doors for Williams.

“(Luker) called about me coming down (to Sweet Water). And Jack (Hankins) called me about Thomasville,” Williams recounts. “I had to make a decision about whether to go to Thomasville or to stay at Clarke County.”

While his decision was not predicated entirely upon his relationship with Luker, that familiarity certainly played its role in the direction he chose to take.

“That definitely played a big role in it,” Williams says. “I knew what I was getting involved in with Stacy Luker.”

What Williams was getting involved with was the resurrection of a dynasty. Working side by side with Luker, Williams helped the Bulldogs win state titles in 2004 and 2006 before his phone rang again.

“I didn’t think there was a job offer in the equation,” Williams says of the first conversation he had with Linden High School principal ______ Thurman. And, Williams admits, at the time he was not looking for a head coaching offer. But Linden wanted him and was willing to provide him what was necessary in order to prompt him to make the move.

“Everything worked itself out,” Williams says. “They came up with the terms and met everything I needed. So I had a decision to make.”

In making that decision, Williams had to evaluate what was left for him to accomplish in his position as Sweet Water’s defensive coordinator. He had taken that job with a specific task in mind. He had to ask himself if that job had been accomplished.

“I didn’t see anything else I could do as a defensive coordinator type guy at Sweet Water,” he says before admitting that the decision was made more difficult by his relationship with his players. “But the main thing was that it was tough to leave those kids.”

As history and 35 wins and two region titles in three seasons now indicate, Williams made the right decision. What he began to learn about from there were things he had to experience for himself, realities of coaching that no one could teach him.

“As you get in it, you find out about all these things — positively and negatively — that you deal with in working with the kids as a head coach,” Williams says. He has since become invested in the lives of his players. He has watched them grow and develop in ways he could not previously have imagined, a maturation that means more to him than the 35 wins or the two region titles or the coach of the year awards or the numerous job opportunities.

“I’d just like to see them be men who have an opportunity to be successful in life,” Williams says.

So will Andro Williams ever leave Linden? Maybe. But the time and the situation would have to be right. And he would have to be able to look at the job he’s done and know that his job was done. For Williams, that means the buying in of not just an entire team, but the community it represents. It means that his players no longer accept less than the best from themselves or those around them. It will mean the changing of a culture and a mentality.

“If we do that as a whole and our team and the community gets behind what we’re trying to do,” Williams says, “that will give us an opportunity to win a state championship.”