“Those guys thought I was crazy but that was me,” Williams said through a laugh on Thursday.
Names on the Florida defensive lineman jumped out to him from those days as a recruiting connoisseur. Williams enjoyed getting together with his defensive linemen after a team meeting on Monday night, and he has started the process of getting to know his players this week.
But for the most part, player development will have to wait until after National Signing Day.
All eyes are on recruiting right now. With only eight commitments in the current class, there’s a lot of work for the current staff to do. Even though he hasn’t recruited since he was helping Texas A&M put its 2012 recruiting class together, Williams isn’t worried about getting back into it.
You either can do it or you can’t,” Terrell Williams said about recruiting on Thursday. “I was telling my wife when I got here on Monday that I felt like I’ve got life back in me now. I’m recruiting, calling coaches and dealing with that. Recruiting is something that you either like it or you don’t. I always followed recruiting.”
Recruiting plays into Williams’ strength as a coach. He is all about relationships. He tries his hardest to build close relationships with his players, and that has been the case throughout his career. The Florida defensive line coach even mentioned speaking recently to players he coached at Fort Scott Community College in 1998.
He wants his players to meet his wife and son, basically becoming a part of their family.
“I believe that – and we believe here as a staff – if the players know you care about them, they’re going to play a lot harder for you,” Williams said. “I’ve always had that philosophy, and that is Coach Mac’s philosophy. I’m looking forward to these guys getting to know me and me getting to know them.”
When he talks to high school prospects thinking about playing at Florida, it’s not much different. He’s building relationships with players, high school coaches and family members throughout the process.
“The one thing about recruiting I think is that if you build relationships, it doesn’t matter if it’s south Florida or Alaska,” Williams said. “If you can recruit and you can build relationships, you should be able to go and get a player from anywhere. Down in South Florida it’s all football, and that’s the same in North Florida, the west coast -- it’s Florida football.”
Through the process of talking to McElwain, this was a job Williams targeted. He had a contract offer to stay with the Oakland Raiders as the defensive line coach or other offers around the NFL and in college football. But Florida was one that he wanted.
He wouldn’t take a job without making sure his wife and son were comfortable, and this was a natural fit for her. Williams’ wife is from Fernandina Beach and graduated from Florida A&M, and her parents are Florida graduates from the engineering program. She gets closer to her family, and Williams gets a job at a program he’s proud to represent.
“You just don’t leave the NFL to go coach at any college,” Williams said. “I felt like this was a special opportunity for me at this time.”
So Williams all but sprinted out the door of his family’s Oakland home on Monday. That’s the life of an assistant at this point in the season with about a month left until signing day. There wasn’t time for him to pack up the house and move at once. He was needed in Gainesville as soon as possible to begin the recruiting process in hopes of signing a solid class this year.
That’s the way college football works, and for Williams, he was glad to get back to the grind that involves recruiting. Some coaches hate it and move on to the NFL, others stay in college, according to Williams, because they can recruit but can’t coach. He proved in recent years that he can do both.
“A lot of guys in college football are just recruiters,” Williams said. “They may not be able to coach, but they can recruit, so they kind of hang around. In pro football you can either coach football or you can’t coach football. I feel like I’ve been successful enough to have an opportunity to coach pro football, to stay in pro football, and I’ve had great success at the college level. I feel like as a coach I can do both, recruit and coach players.”
When he gets to the practice field, Williams wants his defensive linemen to play with energy and be aggressive. The scheme hasn’t been deciding by defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, and it likely won’t happen until after National Signing Day.
Williams was quick to point out on Thursday that none of that matters. Whatever scheme the Gators use, his philosophy stays the same.
“Attack. That’s it,” Williams said. “I could get up here and give you a big speech on what I teach. For us, it’s about being aggressive, attacking guys. That’s the only way I know how to coach that position. It’s not a passive position and I’m not a passive guy. We’ll have a lot of fun and we’re going to attack people. It’s an us-against-the-world mentality.”