Community profile: New Coal Ridge football head coach — alum Crockett Williams — eager to take program in new direction
One of the most significant moments in Crockett Williams’ football life came when he suffered a concussion.
It was freshman year, and the now 29-year-old Titans alum was sidelined after getting his cage rattled. Stepping up, his friend took Williams’ place and put in a solid performance.
“That next week, he actually replaced me — they started him,” Williams said of his successor. “That was really hard for me, knowing that my whole entire life has been what I was doing, and now all of a sudden somebody has kind of outplayed me and has taken my position.”
It was do or die for Williams at this defining point. He was forced to bite the bullet and not only learn but hopefully excel in a new position. That, or perhaps squander the always elusive shot at locking down a starting spot on the roster.
“I was moved to safety the next game,” he said. “From that, I had a pretty good game, and from that I remember (former coach Jim Hoffman) coming up to me and telling me, ‘This might have been the best thing to happen to you because you’re going to get the chance to start varsity this week at safety.’”
Starting this coming season, Williams’ mental and physical resilience should come in handy as he moves up from assistant coach to replace Paul Downing as the head coach of his alma mater.
Titans football could use a little jump-start.
This past season ended with a hard-fought 3-3 overall record and a shot at the playoffs before Coal Ridge lost to league foe Aspen in the finale. But the Titans have produced just two winning records since the 2010-11 season.
The 2017-18 season ended with a respectable 5-4 overall finish but no playoff bid. The 2010 season famously marks the last time the Titans earned a playoff berth. That year — a season after Williams had graduated — Coal Ridge nabbed a 7-4 overall record but suffered a first-round 2A playoff loss to Kent Denver.
But there’s always light in darkness, Williams said. Especially in the game of football.
“When you start the game of football, no matter what kind of athlete you are, there are always things you’re gonna have to develop,” he said. “You’re going to have to actually work hard at those things. It’s not a sport that you can just rely on one person. It does take a team.”
Coal Ridge isn’t necessarily equipped with kids who can dead lift trucks, Williams said.
“But we have a lot of kids with a ton of character, we have kids that are academically really gifted, and we have kids that are incredible athletes,” he said.
Next season will be the first time Williams takes on a head coaching position. He spent the 2021 season as an assistant coach under Downing.
There’s a certain initial shock that comes with taking on such a role. But once Williams worked through the feeling, excitement came pouring in.
“I understand there’s a lot of things that everybody has to be patient with, with me being a new coach,” Williams said. “But I also understand that I know I hold myself to a really high standard. And so when I was weighing the decision, I had to basically be sure that I was willing to take on that pressure within myself.”
Built for this
One could almost argue Williams was naturally well positioned to become the person behind the Xs and Os at Coal Ridge.
Williams was originally born in Odessa, Texas, a legendary Lone Star State football factory that’s produced at least five National Football League players over the past 40 years.
But instead of growing up lacing his cleats in one of the nation’s premier youth football states, Williams soon moved out to the Colorado River Valley of Garfield County, where he’d grow up living in places like Rifle, Silt and New Castle.
Many kids growing up around the game of football in this era, in Colorado, had their favorites. Maybe it was Denver Broncos Terrell Davis, Ed McCaffrey or the great John Elway. For Williams, however, he drew inspiration from a completely different type of NFL legend.
“If I just think of one person that’s been a huge inspiration in my life, it’s Pat Tillman,” Williams said.
Tillman was an Arizona Cardinals safety who stepped away from football to serve in Afghanistan, where he was tragically killed by friendly fire.
“Everything that I’ve learned from him has been a huge inspiration,” Williams said.
Throughout his high school years, not only did Williams use players like Tillman as inspiration to help bounce around the field in different starting spots, but that fuel got him back to his favorite spot on the field. Williams finished out his senior year as the Titans’ starting quarterback.
But looking back, Williams said his colleagues at Coal Ridge also inspire him. In college, the Coal Ridge alum studied his undergraduate at the University of Colorado-Boulder and then pick up a masters at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. From there, he spent some time in California before moving back to Garfield County in summer 2020.
“I really hadn’t thought about football a whole lot in the last 10 years, until I came back to Coal Ridge,” Williams said. “I just decided they needed an assistant coach and decided to try it out, and it kind of, of course, just sucked me back in. … It all just kind of feels really natural now.”
Naturally, Coal Ridge Athletics Director and Dean of Students Ben Kirk said Coal Ridge is excited to have Williams take over.
“First and foremost, we’re just super pumped for a new head football coach,” Kirk said. “I mean, we’ve obviously known him, he went to Coal Ridge, he was an athlete here, a student, as a kid, and then growing up into a completely different person.”
Kirk said Williams is no doubt going to do great things for Titans football.
“I think that’s probably the first time I’ve been able to say that because every time we fill this position, we don’t really know who’s coming into it,” he said. “It’s some new guy from a new area that doesn’t know what he’s getting into.
“Crockett knows all that stuff.”
More than that, Williams has a very high standard for himself, Kirk acknowledged.
“He is just an outstanding man,” Kirk said of Williams, who also teaches high school social studies. “I guarantee that’s what he’s going to teach the kids. I guarantee that’s going to be the expectation. Will they win a ton of games because of that in year one? No. But if he sticks around for five or six years, they will because he’s going to have the right kind of kids doing the right kind of things.”
Without revealing too much, Williams said he plans to implement a game plan that answers to the strengths of the pupils under his tutelage: athleticism, character and intelligence.
“So the system that we’re developing offensively and defensively is sort of taking the direction of taking advantage of all of those things,” he said.
In the meantime, Williams said he’s excited to see these plans for the near future unfold.
“(I’m) excited about just really trying to make the community excited about football,” he said.
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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