Monday, February 26, 2024

Coach Laycock turned into NFL fan by former players turned pro

Coach Jimmye Laycock poses alongside a miniature Pittsburg Steelers helmet. Laycock said he's become a fan of the team ever since William & Mary graduate Mike Tomlin took over as had coach. (Andrew Harris/WYDaily)
Coach Jimmye Laycock poses alongside a miniature Pittsburgh Steelers helmet. Laycock said he’s become a fan of the team ever since William & Mary graduate Mike Tomlin took over as head coach. (Andrew Harris/WYDaily)

William & Mary Football may not be collegiate national champions, but they do have Alabama beat in one metric.

The College of William & Mary has two former players currently coaching NFL teams. The University of Alabama, despite being the national champions, has zero.

Put another way, Alabama’s Head Coach Nick Saban has hoisted the National Championship trophy five times since 2009. The Tribe’s Head Coach Jimmye Laycock has rooted for former players-turned-coaches in the 2018 NFL postseason.

Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Sean McDermott of the Buffalo Bills both coached their teams into the playoffs this season. While their teams were eliminated in the first two rounds, both have found a great deal of success in the NFL.

Tomlin (’94) is a Super Bowl champion coach, and McDermott (’98) took Buffalo to its first playoff berth since 1999.

“I don’t think people can really grasp the magnitude of having two former players as head coaches in the National Football League,” Laycock said. “That’s amazing when you back off and look at that. That says a lot about our school and the history of our football program.”

Laycock won’t take any credit for his former players’ accomplishments, but he’s very proud to see his proteges succeed at the sport’s highest level.

“Being in the coaching profession I know how tough it is, and seeing guys rise to the top like that, it’s pretty special,” Laycock said. “I’m not one to give myself credit for much, to be honest…If I was helpful to them, then good.”

Laycock added that he is just as proud of graduates who find success in other fields, whether they’re doctors or nuclear physicists. It’s rewarding to see the boys he coached turn into men with families and careers, he said.

Still, what makes both men successful head coaches?

They’re consistent in their expectations, their preparation and their plans, Laycock said. And, he added, he was not surprised at all to see either succeed in the NFL.

The coach still keeps in touch with his players-turned-coaches, and says he even found out that McDermott accepted the Bills head coaching job in a text message from Tomlin. Tomlin reached out to Laycock for career advice when pondering the Steelers head coaching position, which he has held since 2007.

Recently, Laycock said he texted Tomlin and asked him to give his former coach a call when he had a few moments of free time.

Tomlin called Laycock immediately.

“I said, ‘Mike, you didn’t have to,’” Laycock said with a laugh. “He said, ‘Coach, old habits are hard to break. You asked, [so] I got to get in touch with you right away.’ He’s still thinking of himself as a player.”

Laycock's office displays a Steelers helmet alongside a photo of Laycock and Head Coach Mike Tomlin. (Andrew Harris/WYDaily)
Laycock’s office displays a Steelers helmet alongside a photo of Laycock and Head Coach Mike Tomlin. (Andrew Harris/WYDaily)

Laycock doesn’t just keep in touch with Tomlin and McDermott— he’s become an avid fan of their teams.

“The year Mike went to the Super Bowl [2009] I found out what [being] a fan is all about,” Laycock said. “I told Mike, ‘You screwed things up with me and turned me into a damned fan— getting me all worked up over games’…now I know what it’s like.”

Coach Laycock clears out his calendar for Buffalo and Pittsburgh games, and planned his whole weekend around Pittsburgh’s critical mid-December match-up against the New England Patriots. He didn’t miss a second of Buffalo’s wild card weekend loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, either, he said.

The Jaguars also ended the Steelers’ season last weekend, but even a strong Jacksonville defense can’t overshadow William & Mary’s impact on the NFL.

“You don’t think of William and Mary, from a distance, as a football power per se because of the academic reputation of the school,” Laycock said. “When you combine a good, solid football program with players who come in here and are intelligent, and choose football as a profession and have the wherewithal, [they] go on and do pretty well.”

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