Monday, March 31, 2008

Spartans hire Williams

Spartans hire Williams
Giles promotes familiar face Jeff Williams as the successor to football icon Steve Ragsdale.
By Ray Cox
Jeff Williams is a Giles High Spartan born and a Spartan bred and aside from a few seasons working on the football staff at archrival Narrows, he'll be a Spartan ...

But that's getting ahead of the story.

Williams -- a Giles assistant coach, graduate and former Spartans player -- has been appointed to succeed Steve Ragsdale as Giles' football coach.

"We offered Coach Williams the job and he most graciously has accepted," Giles athletic director Eric Widdoes said Tuesday.

Williams was a freshman member of Giles' first state championship team, the undefeated 1980 Group AA outfit. In subsequent years, he helped coach the 1993 and 2005 Group A Division 2 state champions and the 1996 and 2006 state runners-up.

"I feel like I've been given the keys to a Rolls Royce," said Williams, 43. "You have to take good care of it to keep it rolling."

In other words, look for no radical makeover. Same single-wing offense, same brutally efficient offensive line play, same relentless defense.

"Things won't change a lot," he said.

Williams studied to be a broadcaster at Virginia Tech, where he'd been a walk-on for the 1985, 1986, and 1987 Hokies, overlapping the administrations of Bill Dooley and Frank Beamer.

Williams did some radio and DJ work before following the advice of his parents, Phyllis and Jerry Williams -- his father is the recreation director in Pembroke.

"They always wanted me to coach," Williams said.

Williams was lifting weights at the high school after he'd finished at Tech when Ragsdale ran into him and struck up a conversation. At length, Ragsdale asked his former linebacker and all-purpose offensive back if he'd like to try some coaching.

Williams started with the JV in 1990 and found out he liked it.

He went back to school to earn a teaching certificate in health and physical education. Save for five years working for then-coach Don Lowe at Narrows, Williams has spent his career at Giles.

"Coach Beamer always used to tell us: 'Surround yourself with good people.'" Williams said. "I have."

Williams said he learned a lot of football and an equal amount of coaching from Ragsdale and long-time assistant coach Rusty Kelley. He also pick up a little from Lowe, now the Narrows athletic director, along with his top assistant Rick Franklin, who is no longer in coaching.

Williams is one of the last remaining members of what had been one of Timesland's most stable coaching staffs. Even before Ragsdale's retirement was made known, Kelley had already planned to retire. Another veteran, Jack Ellison, declared an intent to spend more time with family.

Williams also coaches track at Giles.

Ragsdale had been head coach for 29 years, winning three state titles and being runner-up twice more.

Giles has gone to the playoffs every year it's been in Group A. The Spartans are 68-8 in Three Rivers District competition.

"I didn't think this would happen so soon," Williams said. "I'm happy, but I'm sad, too. I'm sad to see Coach Ragsdale and Coach Kelley retire, Jack Ellison no longer be with us. It's going to be different."
The Roanoke Times

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