Now Williams, the new baseball coach for the Colonels, is hoping to share what he’s learned along the way.
“This is my first head coaching job,” Williams said. “I’m grateful to Michael Nelson [Cass principal] and coach [Rick] Casko for providing me this opportunity. I’m ready to be a leader, not necessarily just a baseball coach. I want to lead the Cass baseball family. We’ve got a great group of parents who are ready and willing to work. I want to be able to take Cass High School to the next level. The kids are hungry to get back to the playoffs, and that’s our goal.”
Williams brings 10 years of coaching experience at Cass to the job, including the last six under Todd Eubanks, former Colonels’ skipper, and feels he has learned things from each of his mentors that will help the Colonels.
The coach had moved to Bartow County from Alabama after graduating from Auburn a decade ago. He left Alabama when a job possibility there didn’t materialize, moving to Georgia, where his father had taken a job teaching construction at Adairsville.
“My goal was to live here for a semester and go back and teach around the Birmingham area,” he said. “I ended up being a full-time substitute teacher at Adairsville.”
He taught two classes of geography and a weight-lifting class there until a permanent job opened up at Cass a year later. “I signed the contract at Cass, met my wife about three years later and haven’t left.”
His Bartow coaches include Eddie Chastain at Adairsville, with whom he began his coaching career after being hired as a full-time substitute teacher there, and Brent Perry, Tommy Adcock and Eubanks at Cass.
After the Adairsville stint, Williams said, he filled an economics teaching position at Cass, where he worked a year for coach Perry.
“Coach Perry was a great guy [and] saw a lot of potential in me as a young coach,” he said. “He kind of took me under his wing. I worked with him for a year, then worked with Tommy Adcock for three.”
With their direction, Williams worked with the team’s pitchers, its JV [junior varsity] team and first base with the varsity. He noted the Colonels made it back to the playoffs under coach Adcock, and he saw firsthand just how important the accomplishment was to the Cass community.
His coaching experience then broadened under coach Eubanks, for whom he worked six years.
“Under coach Eubanks I was really able to flourish,” Williams said. “He gave me a lot of responsibility to help me grow as a coach. I did everything from doing the off-season conditioning to running study halls, to coaching first base, pitching and the infield. The last couple of years I was the associate head coach.”
Williams brings a love of the game to Cass, having played on the 1997 state championship team at Sylacauga, Ala.
He talks about playing on that team and learning what it took to win at the championship level:
“I was a senior pitcher for Sylacauga. We swept McAdory High School, 16-4, the game I pitched in, and 14-12,” he recalled.
He noted McAdory also is famous as the home of Bo Jackson, the former Auburn and NFL great who also played Major League baseball.
The right-hander credits his competitiveness with helping his game. “When I stepped on the mound, I was there to compete. I had good stuff, but I didn’t have the greatest stuff.”
He said Sylacauga finished as a winner its championship season in large part because of attitude.
“We finished the season 28-13,” he said. “We won the first three rounds and at that point it was a single-elimination tournament, one game and move on. We won the first three games on walk-off home runs. Our team just kind of came together and sort of had the mentality that we were not going to lose. I hope to bring some of that to the table at Cass High School.”
Williams said his love of competing was fed by being in a ballpark during a game.
“I loved standing on the mound. I loved controlling the game,” he said. “I loved the fact that every pitch I got to make something happened. That’s the same mentality we want at Cass. We want to play the game one pitch at a time. We want to win every pitch. My goal is to create one-pitch warriors who will go out there and compete and do whatever it takes to win every pitch.”
Williams, who was injured and did not stay healthy during his collegiate career, said another thing he brings to the game is an appreciation of the need to train to avoid injuries.
“I know the importance of keeping players healthy,” he said. “One of the things I take pride in as a pitching coach is that I never had a kid miss a start because of an injury.”
The secret to that record, he said, is controlling what youngsters do when it’s not game day.
“We worked hard between starts,” he said. “We ran. We did a lot of the combat pitching stuff. We did a lot of that to keep their arms, scalps and elbows healthy.”
He said spending 10 years in Cass has helped him gain a deep understanding of his community and its aspirations.
“I know the ins and outs of the program. I understand the Cass baseball community. I understand the level of commitment and work it takes to be successful at Cass High School. I understand what it takes to win at a high level.”