Escambia High Gators: Gator News : Welcome Coach Willie Spears

Wednesday, March 14
Welcome Coach Willie Spears

New Gators coach taking over.

Escambia High names new football coach

Written by PNJ Reporter Jason Blakeney

Escambia High School didn't go looking for just any clown to take over its football program. Instead, it hired a comedian — well, a former stand-up comedian.

Willie Spears will join the Gators' faculty today as a physical education teacher. He'll meet many of his players for the first time during class before a formal football meeting after school.

Spears — who also is an author and motivational speaker — said his background and personality are all part of what he brings to the Escambia football program. He'll use his personality to reach out to his new team.

"You have to build a relationship with kids to get them to work for you," Spears said. "For me, comedy is the way I build those relationships and earn their trust. For me, if I can talk to a kid and get him laughing, then I can build that relationship.

"Once that relationship is built, that's when you can get them to run through walls for you."

Spears cited former Southern Cal and current Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and Florida State legend Bobby Bowden as coaches who used humor to reach players. But while the method might be similar, Spears isn't concerned with being those coaches.

"For me, I had to be me," Spears said. "I played for a lot of great coaches. And a lot of guys use different styles. Some are jovial, some are stoic. I could only be Willie Spears, and Willie Spears likes to have a good time and make people laugh."

Spears is a Panama City Rutherford High graduate and started his coaching career in 2002 as an assistant for the Rams. His first head coaching job came in 2009 at Jefferson County High in Monticello, where he led the Tigers to the Region 1-1B championship game.

He spent the past two seasons as the head coach at Live Oak Suwannee High, compiling a 5-15 record before briefly accepting a job as defensive coordinator at his college alma mater, Northwestern Oklahoma State University.

Escambia Principal Mike Sherrill, who was the head football coach at Woodham High from 1995 to 2004, said Spears had everything the school was looking for in a coach.

"He's obviously a very energetic, enthusiastic football coach," Sherrill said. "His character just seemed to be something that was a great fit for us. He came highly recommended from the administrations and coaches who he has worked for in the past. I think he's going to be a great fit for us."

Spears didn't apply for the job during its first opening. But after Derrick Boyd turned the job down and the position was reopened, Spears did some research on the school, its history and the past couple of seasons.

"A friend of mine, (West Florida High coach) Harry Lees, thought I would be a good fit," Spears said. "We applied, not thinking we would have a shot. We applied, interviewed and everything went great.

"I've never worked for a principal who was a head football coach before, so I'm very excited about that opportunity."

Spears — who played indoor football professionally for three seasons — will act as his own offensive coordinator during his first season and will install a triple-option offense similar to that run by Georgia Tech. The Gators will run a 4-3 defense.

Escambia currently does not have any teaching openings, so Spears will be limited in what he can do as far as hiring new coaches. The situation will be re-evaluated at the end of the school year.

Spears knows the first few seasons with the Gators could be challenging. From the lack of an organized offseason training program to installing new offensive and defensive systems, rejuvenating the program could be difficult.

"I know it's a rebuilding process," said Spears, a wide receiver on Northwestern Oklahoma's 1999 NAIA national championship team. "I told someone it was like one of those makeover shows where they are rebuilding or flipping a house. We're going to have to do some remodeling and change some things. I know the last two or three coaches haven't been able to get it done. Hopefully, we'll be able to turn things around and Mr. Sherrill will give us the time to do that."