Sometimes, dreams get sidetracked.
Ask new Rebel Offensive Graduate Assistant Brad Villavaso, who at age 40 is not your typical GA.
Most of the time, graduate assistants are fresh out of college, embarking on a college coaching career and furthering their education via the two-year apprenticeship known as being a graduate assistant.
That was Brad's goal as well, but "life" got in the way and fulfilling those goals and dreams had to wait.
"When I got out of college, I took a high school coaching job, but my goal was always to coach in the SEC," said Villavaso, a Baton Rouge, LA, native who graduated from Nicholls State University. "That's what I really wanted to do, but I took a high school job for two years and then a restricted earnings job at Nicholls State for two more.
"From there, I was looking for a job. My friends told me not to go back to high school because I'd have a hard time getting back to the college ranks if I did, but I really had no choice."
That's where life dictated his path.
"I needed a job. I was about to get married and needed to work. I worked at a small one-A school for three years and then took over a AAAA program in Houma, LA, at Vandebilt Catholic for 10 years," he explained. "Then we got pregnant, then we got pregnant again and lost a son to SYDS, then we had twins and something always seemed to come up to delay my getting back to the college ranks. One thing led to another and I was kind of stuck in high school. We had to eat."
Finally, it was his wife, Jerri, who intervened.
"She told me I had to do something different, that I look bored. In a way, I was. I enjoyed coaching at Vandebilt and I enjoyed high school ball, but it was always in the back of my mind to get back to coaching in college," he explained. "When I was at Nicholls, Coach O was there for a year before he went to Syracuse, so we kept in touch through the years.
"This year, he called me and told me he had a GA opening. My wife and I duscussed it and it seemed right. We took a chance and took a big pay cut so I could do it. It seemed doable, and, like I said, right."
Brad's background is more on the defensive side of the ball, but he's not backing up from being on the offensive side of the ball. If anything, he's expanding his craft.
"I've always been more defensive-orientated, but I have always believed a coach can coach any position with a little training," he continued. "I was always the DC of my high school teams. I was around offense, but I put more time in on defense.
"I just needed to get my foot in the door. I have enough confidence in my ability to know I will be a good offensive coach. Coach (Dan) Werner has been great to me. He and the rest of the offensive staff have been patient and have taught me a lot. This has been good for me because now I see more on the field than I ever have because I understand both sides of the ball a lot better now. I understand what defenses are trying to do to offenses and now I understand how offenses attack defenses and why they do what they do. I'm a more well-rounded coach now having been here through a spring."
Villavaso said he has not seen any roadblocks in what he has experienced at Ole Miss thus far.
"My mentality is defense, but I'm enjoying offense," he stated. "No matter which side of the ball you are on, you have to have controlled aggression to play and you have to coach controlled aggression, so it's not that different. The biggest thing is it's fine-tuning my knowledge of the game.
"I approach helping with the tight ends the way I did coaching linebackers. Give it everything you have and do it right, the way you are taught to do it. Tackling or blocking, there is still a right way and a wrong way and our job is to teach the right way."
Whenever we talk to a new player, the subject of what is different from high school to college is always brought up. The answer is always "speed." It's the same with a coach transitioning from high school to college, Villavaso said.
"There is no doubt, the speed of the game is much, much faster. Coming from a high school where we didn't produce a single college prospect, the speed of the game hits you in the face, just like it does a player coming to the SEC out of high school," he noted. "It is awesome to watch those guys do the things you have always coached but at a different tempo, level and speed.
"The intensity level here at Ole Miss is very impressive. The work ethic, the speed and size of the athletes. . . . I'm just glad to be a part of it and I tell Coach O that every day."
Villavaso brings an intensity level to the table as well.
"I knew what to expect from Coach O because I was around him for a year at Nicholls. I coached with a lot of energy in high school myself, so I knew what I wanted to give and knew what would be expected of me," Brad said. "As a head coach in high school, I seemed to lose some high-energy guys coaching with me and replaced them with guys who needed a boost.
"I wanted to be around high-energy guys who love the game and are go-getters like I am. I knew there wouldn't be a lack of that at Ole Miss with Coach O at the helm."
Brad said the transition to college ball has been a blessing for him personally and for his family.
"My wife told me I would have to drag her away from Oxford. My little girl loves the school here. We are building a house right now," he closed. "My wife and family have backed me and supported me all the way and have adjusted well. I couldn't do it without their support at this stage in my life."
Life sometimes delays dreams, but if the will is there, dreams can come true.
Brad Villavaso is a prime example.
Brad Villavaso -
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