It’s been 20 years since Jimmye Laycock last coached Alan Williams. Laycock remembers Williams as a dependable running back at William & Mary -- “He was a good player, not great.” But what Laycock always admired in Williams, and a big reason he later brought him back to coach for five seasons with the Tribe was Williams’ grounded and driven nature, his intelligence and desire to get better.
That’s why the news of Williams’ hiring as the new Vikings’ defensive coordinator had Laycock so pleased Thursday, confident his former pupil would position himself to be successful with this next step up the coaching ladder.
“It’s always been my philosophy that if I can get a good person with an obvious work ethic and who is a solid, solid individual, you can help them develop into the coaching side of things,” Laycock said. “That was the case with Alan. When I hired him, I really felt like it was an opportunity for me to get a class, solid, good person who I knew. Getting him in our program and on the coaching staff was a good move. As far as what he lacked with the X’s and O’s and coaching expertise, I knew he could learn that. But he was a great role model for players on our team and he developed into a very, very good coach.”
Williams is close with Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. The two were teammates playing for Laycock at William & Mary for two seasons in the early 1990s. Tomlin was also influential in helping Williams break into the NFL in 2001 as a defensive assistant on Tony Dungy’s staff in Tampa Bay.
Naturally, Williams often draws comparisons to Tomlin. Laycock sees a few parallels.
“First and foremost, both of them were very good people,” he said. “And both are very comfortable with who they are. They don’t try to pretend they’re something else. We’ve seen that with Mike and you’ll see that with Alan too. They are who they are. If it’s what you like, fine. If it’s not what you like, fine. But they’re not one way in one situation and then they turn around and they’re different in another situation. They’re both very open, very honest. And they’re very good people.”
As for the cynicism out there from people wondering about Williams’ 10-year stint in Indianapolis as a defensive backs coach – if he was a great coach, wouldn’t he have had opportunities to move up sooner? – Laycock takes a crack at a counter-argument.
“I can’t speak directly for Alan. But I think he was in a situation where he felt very comfortable in the environment and very comfortable with the people he was working with,” Laycock said. “Having that opportunity to be with Tony Dungy as long as he was is pretty impressive. I think sometimes people lose track of why you get into coaching in the first place. And as long as you’re in a situation where you’re happy and your family can be happy and you find a situation where you deal with good players and good people, that’s what this is all about. Plus, you give yourself that opportunity for growth where you are. Alan had that.”