After spending 15 years as an assistant under three coaches, Dave Williams is the man in charge of the Custer High School football team.
Williams became coach earlier this summer when former head coach Russ Bailey resigned and encouraged him to pursue the head coach position. It didn’t take a lot of convincing, as being a head football coach is something he had always wanted to do.
The transition has been en eye-opener for him, as he confesses there is a lot more that happens behind the scenes—whether it’s ordering equipment, organizing, keeping his players in the weight room—than he realized.
“It’s a lot more time,” he said.
Williams, who has been head teacher at the school district’s alternative school for the past nine years, grew up in the South, living in Athens, Ga., before moving to Jacksonville, Fla., where he attended Sandalwood and Maranatha high schools, where he was a quarterback and safety on the football team.
Williams received an undergraduate degree in education from Tennessee Temple University and has a master’s from Grand Canyon University. He attempted to prolong his football career at Florida State University, where he participated in a tryout, only to injure his knee, effectively ending his football career.
Williams came to Custer in 1993 with his wife, Tracey, who was born and raised here. After getting married, the couple moved West, he said.
His football coaching career started when he attended practices in 2003 to watch his foster child, Will Hambleton, practice. Then-coach John Nydegger told him since he was at practice every day, he may as well join the staff.
So he did.
“I wasn’t too thrilled about it, but after a while it became a passion again,” Williams said.
Williams remained on the staff when Darren Deneui became head coach and, later, Bailey. He served as Bailey’s offensive coordinator last year, but has coached virtually every position for the team over the years.
Bailey will remain as an assistant and coordinate the team’s defense and Brad Block remains on staff as well. Russ Evans, who brings 29 years of coaching experience, joins the staff this year, and Craig Reindl will also help coach the varsity.
Those who watch the Wildcats won’t see a huge change in the way the team plays as it transitions from Bailey to him, Williams said. As head coach, he said he will expect his players to conduct themselves to certain standards he will lay out for them.
“They are a student before they are a player. A ‘C’ is an average student. If you can’t be an average student, maybe you shouldn’t be a football player,” he said. “I want them to be successful on the field and in life. Winning isn’t just on the field.”
Williams inherits a experience-laden team from Bailey, a team that will have 40 to 45 players, including 17 seniors. Only one senior who played significant minutes graduated.
Because of increasing enrollment, the Wildcats will be in Class 11A this year and will play a few teams they haven’t played in years, or ever, including West Central, Spearfish and Lennox. Both West Central and Lennox will cross the state to tangle with the Wildcats.
“They are battle-bruised,” Williams said of his team. “Our numbers are through the roof and we have a lot of returning players. I think we’re going to do really well.”