Alan Williams ’92 wanted to be a teacher. He planned his entire life out step by step based on that one known fact. After graduation from the College, he started teaching at Norview High School in Norfolk, Va. Then he started helping out with the school’s football team. He planned that eventually he’d become head coach and someday he’d make his way into school administration.
But then the NFL got in his way.
Williams recently was a part of something that approximately 100 million Americans watched a few weeks back. Williams is the secondary coach with the Indianapolis Colts and his franchise won its first Super Bowl title in decades.
“It was a great feeling,” said Williams. “I hate to say that it was anti-climactic, but it was. Just to get there, and we had fallen so short the three years before. To beat New England at home to get to the Super Bowl, that was really a big deal. To win the Super Bowl for (head coach Tony Dungy) and as well as just the personal satisfaction to get over that hump after falling short for so many years.”
“And really proving the critics wrong,” he added.
Williams and Dungy had been criticized all season long because of the team’s perceived under-performing defense. Williams’ defensive secondary — which is usually comprised of four to six players who cover the wide receivers and tight ends and defend passes from the quarterback — was a part of the overall problem. But as soon as the playoffs started his squad was a big part of the Colts’ ascension to the championship match-up against the Chicago Bears.
“(Our secondary) was just coming around to getting healthy,” said Williams. “I think the players did a better job of taking ownership of what was going on. They were not happy for sure with how we were playing and I think that they took it upon their shoulders to be more responsible for what was happening on the field. And we as coaches I think did a better job of mixing up what we called.”
Williams thinks that it may all have been great timing for his team — and great teaching. He believes that there is much more to the game of football than most understand, and that it requires a great teacher to get players in position and help them understand its complexities. Perhaps that is why this former teacher has been so fortunate in his young NFL career thus far.
“(Football) is so different in terms of what you do and how you do it,” said Williams. “You’ve got to understand what other people teach you and convey that to your players. If you’re a good teacher, you can coach football.”
And Williams credits many of good habits and abilities to days spent learning at the College. Not just on the field, but in the classroom as well.
“When you’re a William and Mary student, you have to do a lot of things at a high level in competition with a lot of people,” said Williams. “It makes you multi-task. It makes you prioritize your time. It sets you up for whatever you do — to do it at a high level.
“Coach Laycock demanded that we go to class and that we represented the football team in a good way,” said Williams. “You’re there to play football but you’re also here to be a student athlete. You also had to perform in the classroom at a high level. Not everyone is subjected to that. So when you come out of William and Mary you have a leg up when you enter the workforce.
“When I taught, I felt better prepared than the people I was teaching with,” said Williams. “And it was the same with football. As a coach, the day isn’t done until you finish with your work. You’re not governed by a time clock. That’s how W&M was. You keep doing it until you get it right until you’re done. Not just finished with it, but the product is a good product. That is a lot like what the real world is and a lot like what coaching is.”
Williams feels that his time on campus was special, and makes a point to stop by for a visit at least once a year. He remembers fondly the nights when he was up late at night at Millington 101 and up on the third floor of Swem Library.
“I also liked walking down DoG Street and getting a smoothie from the ice cream shops,” laughed Williams. For now, Williams and his wife Lisa do their walking with their three boys.
Now that he’s been a part of a Super Bowl-winning team, the future is bright for Williams — though his first focus is helping to guide his Colts back to the playoffs and possibly win it all again. Though Williams has been rumored to be the next defensive coordinator or the Vikings, he’s making sure that all doors of opportunity are left open.
“I want to have my squad perform at a high level on a consistent basis,” said Williams. “I think that what people are looking for is consistency. They want to know can you do that next year and the year after. That’s the testament of a good coach. If you can put a good product on the field and have them perform on a consistent basis. Right now it’s just to be the best secondary coach that I can possibly be. If that turns into possibilities like a coordinator or a head coach – that would be great. I’ll welcome those when they come. As of now, it’s to do what I do and to do it well.”
This was originally written for The College of William & Mary.