The Huntsville School Board voted on Monday to move Eagles defensive coordinator Matt Williams into the head coaching position.
The position was left vacant after the board earlier this year voted to remove former Eagles coach Randy Barnhill from the sidelines. Barnhill is still employed by the district as the dean of students at the Huntsville High School.
Williams, 46, has been with the district for 15 years.
He graduated from Texarkana High School in 1990, and played a year at Austin College before transferring to the University of Arkansas, where he walked on to play as a defensive tackle for a year.
“I’ve always been a Razorback my whole life, so I transferred to U of A,” Williams said. “At first I didn’t know if I was going to play or not, so I decided I’d walk on, and I actually played in the first SEC game ever for the Razorbacks.”
That game was against South Carolina, and Williams continued to play for the Razorbacks for the rest of the year. After that, though, he had to step away from the field.
“Some things personally didn’t work out, and I had to give it up to be able to finish school and all that stuff,” he said. “I wasn’t on scholarship. They were telling me that one of these days I was probably going to get one, but it wasn’t a deal where I could hang out long enough to get it.”
Williams then began focusing on his coaching career. While he worked for the Springdale Water Department and attended school, he also volunteered at local schools, including at Huntsville under then-football coach Ken Harriman. When Harriman left for Siloam Springs, Williams followed, volunteering at Siloam before after graduating in 1998. He was then hired as an assistant coach in Monett, Mo. He coached there for a year before returning to Siloam, where he spent four years as an assistant coach, the last as defensive coordinator. Then, Harriman called Williams again, offering him a job as defensive coordinator at Huntsville, Williams said.
Williams, who also coaches the high school’s track team, said his returning football players haven’t gotten much practice time on the field this spring, but they’ve been hitting the weights.
“We’ve been working,” he said. “We’re mainly working in the weight room, working on agilities, getting stronger and getting faster.”
Williams said the team is also working on bettering its culture and its attitude when it takes the field on Friday nights.
“We have to get the kids to believe in themselves,” he said. “A big part of it is that our kids I think have been told over and over again that they can’t win, especially playing 5A, and we’re going to try to let them know that they can.
“We want to win games, and right now we’ve got to work on us and not worry so much about who’s on the other side of the ball. I think we’ve got a great bunch of kids and I think they work hard and they want to do things right.”
Williams said when it takes the field next season, the team will likely return to a spread offense it utilized a few years ago.
“We really think that gave our kids a lot of opportunity to be successful,” he said. “The thing about a spread offense is you don’t necessarily have to be bigger or stronger, and really you don’t have to be faster either. You have to find ways to trick the defense.”
At the meeting, Athletic Director Tom Tice described Williams as an enthusiastic leader the district has been lucky to retain.
“We were scared to death we were going to lose him last year to a head coaching job,” Tice said. “He’s held leadership positions – defensive coordinator, and he’s the track coach. He knows how to relate to kids and we’re real happy he’s here with us.”