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On The Whistle Podcast | The Not So Secret Recipe for Effective Coaching

October 27, 2020

Gary Goldberg

Willie Edwards, assistant football coach at Brown University, believes the recipe for effective coaching blends discipline, love, firmness, and hard work. It took tough love for him to lead a team to five straight High School Super Bowl visits and two championships. 

On this episode of the On the Whistle podcast, Coach Willie and I talk about his life playing football, what motivated him to succeed, and how he coaches his players today.

We discuss:

  • Who Coach Willie is and how his football career progressed
  • The coaching style that brought his team to the championships
  • Characteristics of great mentors
  • …And what Coach Willie is doing now at Brown and with the LA Rams

 

Listen now

 

 

Episode Transcript

Gary Goldberg:

Hey, everybody. Welcome to this edition of On The Whistle, where I'm really excited to have Coach Willie Edwards. Coach Willie Edwards is the assistant outside linebackers coach for Brown University Football. In addition to that, with full disclosure, Willie Edwards was my alma mater's football coach and mentored my two boys and my daughter through their experience at Moses Brown School.

Gary Goldberg:

At Moses Brown School, Coach Willie had a 71 and 22 record, so this guy knows the formula to win, and had five straight High School Super Bowl visits, resulting in two championships. So, Coach, super excited to have you. Love talking to you. Welcome.

Willie Edwards:

Oh, thank you. Great seeing you, man. Haven't seen you ... I feel like I haven't seen anybody in forever, man, but it's great seeing your face, man. How is things going?

Gary Goldberg:

Things are going well. It's a complex and trying time, but there's plenty of time to talk about what's good. And I'm, like you probably, Coach, are trying to focus on the silver linings. And the neat part about this show is we get to talk to people who make a difference in people's lives, and are invested in changing the world and making it a better place. And so, it's good to have you on.

Gary Goldberg:

And so, what I'd love to do, Coach, and I call you "Coach" with fondness, is to talk about you as a little boy. And for those of you who don't know Coach Willie, this is not a little boy. Coach Willie is a big guy.

Willie Edwards:

"A big guy."

Gary Goldberg:

Right?

Willie Edwards:

Yes.

Gary Goldberg:

And I understand, in college ... And I've seen pictures of you when you played for URI that you were like a truck.

Willie Edwards:

Yeah. I was a big running back back in the day. Now, I would probably be a pulling guard, or I wouldn't be doing anything.

Gary Goldberg:

But I suspect you caused a lot of hard hits in college.

Willie Edwards:

Yeah, it was fun, man. I got to run the ball, man. I was really lucky. Someone saw me as a ... I was in middle school, and said, "Oh, man. He's a big, athletic kid." So, you know, I was on the punt team. I was in the wall, waiting for the punter, and they did a fake to me, and I took it around the corner for a spoiler, and that was in 8th grade.

Willie Edwards:

So, somebody in 9th grade said, "I'm making him a fullback." You know?

Gary Goldberg:

Yeah.

Willie Edwards:

That actually segues right into it, man. That was my mentor. That was the guy that really ... the person that saw that was actually the person that taught me a lot of stuff about life, and football, and coaching, and family. His name is Ray-

Gary Goldberg:

What was his name?

Willie Edwards:

His name is Ray [Doobie 00:03:11]. Raymond Doobie. And he was my middle school, junior high school football coach. Back in the day, you know, they had a really strong freshman football league in Rhode Island, and was consisted of 8th and 9th graders. So, it wasn't just the junior high team. It wasn't just the freshman team. And he was my freshman coach. And we were at Deering High School. We had a dynasty, man. Ray Doobie and Ken Howl were the co-head coaches, and Ray was just a person that changed my life, you know what I mean?

Willie Edwards:

And like I said, he's the one that saw me as a fullback.

Gary Goldberg:

And when you say he changed your life, I mean, that sounds pretty serious in a way, right?

Willie Edwards:

It is serious. It is serious.

Gary Goldberg:

So, what did he change? Did he ...

Willie Edwards:

Well, he befriended me, man. He showed me something that I didn't see before. You know what I mean? So, when I was in 8th grade, there was kids getting ... This is when you could have the dark mask visors on your helmets and stuff, and there was kids on my team that were able to get those. I wasn't able to get that. I didn't have the money to do that. And Ray was smart enough to have the awareness to say, "You do this, that, and the other in school, we'll get you one of those visors." You know what I mean? So, he got me one of those visors.

Willie Edwards:

And then, from that point on, anytime I got in any trouble, anytime anything ever happened, I was sent to Ray. You know what I mean? He was my guy. He was the one that'll take care of me.

Willie Edwards:

And then, low and behold, his wife, Kathy, who was also a teacher in the school at Deering, was my English teacher, and I had her for English. So, you know, it was just a great story with them.

Willie Edwards:

And then, it stopped. They were in the middle school, and then I went to high school. And later on in my high school life, my high school career, I needed a life raft. And low and behold, my middle school teachers, Coach Ray and Kathy, were the ones that provided that.

Willie Edwards:

Like I said, we can get into this if you want. This is definitely a story, you know what I mean?

Gary Goldberg:

Yeah. Coach, we're here to get into it.

Willie Edwards:

Yeah, yeah. So, Ray Doobie was ... I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for Ray and Kathy Doobie, to the point where when I say they threw my a lifeline, my senior year I lived with them. You know what I mean? My family already split. My father was gone. My mother and sister were back to Providence. I was living in West Warwick. This is all in West Warwick.

Willie Edwards:

And so, yeah. It got to a point where Ray and Kathy opened their doors to me. I lived with them for a few years, even after high school. So, yeah. Ray was my middle school coach. Kathy was my 8th grade teacher. They showed me a lot of love when I was in middle school and it sparked me to be a good player and a good student.

Willie Edwards:

And then, later on in high school, I had some dark times, and they provided a life raft. After my junior, midway in my junior year, I basically dropped out of school. I stopped going. My father wasn't at home. Mother didn't have control. I was big, I was getting bigger, I was [crosstalk 00:06:17]-

Gary Goldberg:

Yeah.

Willie Edwards:

You know what I mean? So, I was invincible. So, I didn't have that. And so, going into the end of my junior year, man, Ray and Kathy came coming along and they was like, "We need to get you right and we know football is part of it. That's the carrot."

Willie Edwards:

So, Kathy tutored me that summer for free. I couldn't afford it, obviously, to get eligible. And then, not only that, she recruited one of her friends in another class, another subject, who did the same thing. She tutored me as well.

Willie Edwards:

And I was still going against the curve. I had to go to summer school. I still wasn't doing the best thing I should be doing at summer school. So, that's how it all started, is going into my senior year. And then, I ended up living with them for a few years.

Gary Goldberg:

Coach, when you say "that was the carrot," football was the carrot, why was it a treat for you? What was it about football that incentivized you or made you feel compelled to do all the stuff you didn't want to do?

Willie Edwards:

Yeah, I just loved the game like I do now. You know what I mean? You can see that I love the game now through my social media posts and everything is football. Well, it was the same way when I was a little boy except I could play. So, it was the carrot, you know? If you didn't do what you needed to do academically, and if you didn't stay out of trouble ... It was both of those things. It wasn't just academically. They weren't going to let me play football.

Gary Goldberg:

And that would have hurt you?

Willie Edwards:

Yeah, that would have hurt me. I mean, who knows what would have happened? If the story would have been different, like, "Yeah. We're going to help you, tutor you, and get you back on track to graduate without football," who knows if I would have chose that path? [inaudible 00:08:04], you know, for what? Who knows? Football was the carrot. That's all it was.

Willie Edwards:

And then, we went on and won the state championship that new year, and it was a big story, and there's articles that were written about it. I can try to find them and share them with you if you want.

Gary Goldberg:

Yeah, I'd love to have them. We'd love to put them on the website. It'd go along with the episode.

Willie Edwards:

Yeah. Ray and Kathy Doobie and their two daughters, Erin and Megan. They had two daughters. One was a sophomore when I moved in their house, one was an eight grade. They was way behind in high school. That was a big ... When I look at it, it was a big taking in. You know, you're taking someone in that ... It wasn't hard, man. I give them a lot of credit.

Willie Edwards:

And Ray coached at Moses Brown a couple years. He volunteered when he could. I mean, he was like ... Oh, I got the head coaching job in 2011. I want to say he was there a lot of 2012 and 13. And then, his schedule changed and stuff. He was raising his grandsons.

Willie Edwards:

And then, in high school, there was other people I met too, Gary. Ray and Kathy were the catalysts but my high school head coach was an unbelievable person. He was the tough love guy. He was the one that taught me about tough love. He's the one that taught me about ... The way that I coach now is more like Coach Alves, Steve Alves Sr.

Gary Goldberg:

What do you mean by tough love, because I think I know what you mean because I've seen you coach, and there's a-

Willie Edwards:

Yeah. I'll get after you. I'll get after you.

Gary Goldberg:

There's an edge to your coaching style.

Willie Edwards:

Yeah, there's an edge to my coaching style. You know, you've been around it, you've been up close and personal. It's not nothing that I turn off and turn on. It's who I am, you know what I mean? So, I was never, ever sugar-coating or pretending on any of it. It's who I am.

Willie Edwards:

So, what it is is just I'm going to get after you, man. We're going to get the most we can get out of you, man. And I'm never going to ... When I say, "Get after you," I don't mean degrade you. I don't mean berate you. I don't mean go to an extent where it humiliates you in front of your peers.

Willie Edwards:

I will get after you, but I don't mean that. I mean, like, get after you like motivate you in a way where you're going to want to not disappoint me, and not disappoint your other coaches, and not disappoint your teammates.

Willie Edwards:

And then, a little bit later, I'll come back, pat you on the butt or say, "This is why I did this." You know? I just do something, a gesture, and that's the love part, you know what I mean?

Gary Goldberg:

Where'd you learned that, Coach? I've seen you do it in action. I've seen you grab a face mask on a sideline when I volunteered for you. I seen you grab a face mask and say, "What were you thinking about?" Or, "Come on!" and really get after a player. But then, two plays later, when they start to get their head on straight, you encourage them and say, "That's what I'm talking about!"

Willie Edwards:

Yeah. I don't know. I mean, that's how I was coached.

Gary Goldberg:

I'll tell you, it's a gift, and I think it's something special, and you got to figure out a way to bottle that, Willie, so you can get that out to more people.

Willie Edwards:

Man, yeah. I'm blessed. I was coached by some great people, some great people. And the other thing, too, man, is I have some amazing kids to coach. That makes things a lot easier too, you know? When you have kids like the kids we have at Moses Brown, that were just all-in, you know what I mean? And they don't want to disappoint you. I call those kids, "Eager beavers." They just want to do whatever they can do to make you happy, and work really hard. And then, the support, of course, you folks, and the parents, and the administration.

Willie Edwards:

I was really blessed for LaJhon Jones, who was my college teammate at URI, and-

Gary Goldberg:

I didn't know that.

Willie Edwards:

Yep. And we played against each other in high school. Yeah. I played with John when he was in 9th grade. He was at Warwick Vets. He just moved to Rhode Island from Portland. And big, big, fast kid. And then, we played against them [inaudible 00:12:00] when we was seniors. We beat them, like, eight to six. It was a tough game.

Willie Edwards:

And then, later on, we ended up becoming teammates at URI, and if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't [inaudible 00:12:10], bro. He brought me in in 2005 as a volunteer assistant. I did that for four years, and I coached a little bit with Ray, with Mr. Doobie, when he was the head coach of the Exeter-West Greenwich, but I wasn't as seasoned.

Willie Edwards:

It really started happening then. '05 was touch and go for me. You know how I'm all gung ho right now? I wouldn't miss anything? I'll sleep on the field?

Gary Goldberg:

Yeah.

Willie Edwards:

'05 was touch and go. I might miss a day.

Gary Goldberg:

Why?

Willie Edwards:

Because I'm a volunteer assistant, you know what I mean? It's just because I wasn't into it like I was, you know what I mean? Yeah. So, LaJhon was a big piece of this thing. And then, Jeff. Jeff was definitely a huge piece to this because Jeff trusted me to do what's right.

Willie Edwards:

And what happened was, Gary, when I started coaching with LaJhon, I coached the JVs. I was a volunteer assistant. And me and Jeff ... And I was paired with Jeff. We were both the position running back coaches, and we were both the position of the linebackers' coaches, and we both were the JV coaches.

Willie Edwards:

And so, when LaJhon left for Durfee, Jeff had it ... He coached on our staff, but he had hands-on experience on who I was as a person, and how I treated kids, and how I motivated kids, so that's why I have to give love to Jeff and I have to give love to LaJhon because none of what happened at Moses Brown with me would have happened without those guys. And-

Gary Goldberg:

Coach, talk to us a little bit about your college experience and the transition from going from your beloved high school mentor network and safety net, you ship off to URI, were you living at URI at the dorms?

Willie Edwards:

Yeah. So, you know-

Gary Goldberg:

So, were you ready to manage yourself as a person? Did you find mentors at URI that you could rely on? What was it like, that transition, for you and how did mentors or coaches help you through it?

Willie Edwards:

It was such a ... You know, my college experience ... You know how I've been talking about from one point to the other of success, and some people talk about it was a swirly line, mine is like ...

Willie Edwards:

I didn't go straight to URI. I did a prep school year. I did a half a year at Kent school. So, coming out of high school, URI [inaudible 00:14:32] me, talent development program. I had a couple other ... Like, when Yukoners went double-A, UMass were all sniffing, U New Haven.

Willie Edwards:

And so, I said, "I'm going to prep school." And this guy named Smokey Cerrone from Cerrone Automobile, he used to be a hockey scout, and he somehow found me and alerted Kent school about me, and I went up there full-scholarship, and I left mid-year. I had a daughter at the time and I [inaudible 00:14:59] high school, and I left for the year, and I came, and I took to URI. But they were the only ones that were willing to take me in January, you know what I mean? Everybody else was like ...

Willie Edwards:

I lived in New Hampshire. I was like, "Finish the full year. Finish the full year. Academically, Academically." And I was in Kent school, which is western Connecticut. I had a daughter. So, I went to Kent for half a year, went to URI in January in the mid-year, made some amazing friends.

Willie Edwards:

Some of the coaches there were awesome, some were just tough for me to deal with just because I wasn't used to that style of coaching. It was more business-like. I was always the star of the team, so now I was-

Gary Goldberg:

Went from family to employee?

Willie Edwards:

Yeah, man. But I have some great people, Floyd Keith, and Terry Lynch, and John Miller. There was some really great guys that were ... I made some really great friends there.

Willie Edwards:

And then, I left URI, though. You know what I mean? And I went to Merrimack.

Gary Goldberg:

I didn't know that.

Willie Edwards:

I did, yep. And so, that's all through Leslie, and Leslie's father was the head coach of Merrimack. So, Merrimack was their second year. Their first year was '96. In their second year of the program, I came there in '97. A few of us from URI did.

Willie Edwards:

And that's another person I have to bring up as far as coach. Like, we're asking about my coaches and who shaped me as a coach. That's what your question is. It's Ray Doobie, for showing empathy and showing me how to love my players. It's Steve Alves Sr., who was my high school coach, who showed me tough love. And it's Tom Caito, who just showed me how to love my players, how to care. Those three people are probably the three people that shaped me as a coach.

Willie Edwards:

Yeah. So, when I went to Merrimack is when I found my first, I would say, mentor. I will say I wanted to [inaudible 00:16:49] from Merrimack without Tom Caito. And I didn't graduate from there.

Gary Goldberg:

When you say he was your first mentor, what did that look like to you? What was different about someone being a mentor to you for people who are listening that want to be great mentors, what were some of his characteristics that you think about changed the way either you thought about yourself or you thought about your potential? What was it about it?

Willie Edwards:

You know, Coach Caito was really good at listening, you know what I mean? And truly understanding. I guess he had a great deal of empathy. He was old-school, he was tough, but at the same time, you could tell he loved us all as players.

Willie Edwards:

And even until today, we still talk and are still in contact, and I just feel a great deal of respect for him. Honestly, Gary, I think it's just something that's felt. You know what I mean? You just know.

Willie Edwards:

Kids these days are so smart. They know if you're being authentic. They know if this is an act or you're being fake, and they look right through that. And I think that's what helped me out at Moses Brown was I was just keeping it real all the time with the kids and everybody, the parents. And I think they bought into that.

Willie Edwards:

They said, "All right ..." And it's like I'm saying, "Come to Breakfast Club. I'm going to show up. I'm the first one there, opening the door."

Gary Goldberg:

What was Breakfast Club, Willie, for the people that don't know what it was? What was Breakfast Club?

Willie Edwards:

Yeah. It was just the workouts we did in the mornings. Once the off season came, we just provided a ... I would call it "Period zero." I would get to the school-

Gary Goldberg:

What time?

Willie Edwards:

We used to go, safely, I will say 6:40-7:30, give the boys enough time to shower and get to advisory for eat, or if they wanted to grab something to eat. So, yeah. And we'd do that, like, four days a week.

Gary Goldberg:

And what percentage participation? If you had 100 players, how many people would go to Breakfast Club?

Willie Edwards:

If we had 100 kids, I would say consistently 40 of them would come, maybe 50 of them would come.

Gary Goldberg:

So, half the team would show up for Breakfast Club off-season?

Willie Edwards:

Consistently, yeah. We would get more than that, but it'd be in just low-scale. As the years went on, it became these guys was just like, "This is just what we do." It wasn't a question, you know what I mean? It's tough, though. Very tough thing to juggle because of the amount of boys at the school, and then the other co-curriculars, and trying not to step on feet of other seasons.

Willie Edwards:

So, it became touch to juggle, but it was worth it. It was not only good just for the lifting part and the running, the comradery. The guys felt like they accomplished something. We gave them stuff. We gave them incentives. You know, "You get this hat." "I'll place an order with SquadLocker if you do this [crosstalk 00:19:56]-"

Gary Goldberg:

Nothing wrong with that. I got to feed my family. I got to feed my family.

Gary Goldberg:

Willie, what's going on at Brown University? How's that transition going? You went from head honcho, head coach, built a program over many, many years to tremendous momentum, and now you're back at the middle of bottom of the totem pole. You elected to go back down, but in a bigger world.

Willie Edwards:

Yeah. Not the bottom ... Yeah. It was just a calling, man. For me, the opportunity arised, and I don't want to look back 10 years from now and not taken the opportunity.

Gary Goldberg:

I appreciate, though.

Willie Edwards:

That's the main thing. But yeah, it's going great. You're right though, first year, that was a big transition for me, being the guy that made all the decisions and was involved with all the scheming, all sides of the ball, having a huge piece of this big cake, or really, just baking the cake to, like, "Okay, man. You just worry about your slice." You know what I mean? That took a little bit ... That was a transition in just the hours. The hours are serious, especially in-season. And traveling was ... You know.

Willie Edwards:

But it was good, though, man. It was a good challenge. I worked with some really good people, including Coach Ari is really unbelievable. And it's just all about mindset, so now, instead of me ... The way I look at it, I had Moses Brown, this team, and now my team is my outside linebackers. I'm going to make these guys the best that they can possibly be.

Willie Edwards:

And I will promise you, these guys, my outside linebackers, are going to mirror what Moses Brown teams look like. They will sprint on the field. You know what I mean? They'll go crazy. They'll be spazzing and they'll sprint off, and that's what I want to do. That's what I've been doing.

Willie Edwards:

It's going great. I love it over there. Great people.

Gary Goldberg:

What you like coaching college kids versus high school kids? Do you notice that it takes a different language or a different physical motion, or anything?

Willie Edwards:

No. The Brown kids are very similar to the Moses Brown kids. They're eager beavers. Eager beavers. We just have more of them, because there's more kids playing football in college. They're there to play football. They're not there to play football, but that's part of their deal. There's more talent, but honestly, nah, man. Not really, man. They're the same kids to me. Kids are kids are kids. You know what I mean? Those kids are great over there.

Willie Edwards:

More connection with the Moses Brown team just because I'm the strength coach, I'm the guidance counselor, I'm the football coach, you know what I mean? It's a little bit different at the college level, but yeah, it's great, man. It's been great. I miss my peoples at MB, though. I'm glad to see everybody's doing well.

Gary Goldberg:

You know, Coach, two of my boys worked effectively for you. [Sitchen 00:22:43] played a little football. My other son, Jude, couldn't get him on the field. He was a manager. His thing was lacrosse and he was, I think, between you and me, scared of getting hurt.

Willie Edwards:

I don't know. I never thought of it like that.

Gary Goldberg:

Yeah. But I want to share with you, because I think it's so important to recognize your accomplishments, these two kids thought of you as an absolute pillar of their school experience. And they wanted to work so hard to make sure that whatever it is that you and the football team needed was done right and done well.

Gary Goldberg:

And you know, my wife and I, we were amazed at the discipline that they felt as a sense of responsibility to the team. And it was a direct result of your involvement, and it was amazing to watch.

Gary Goldberg:

And I think I've told you this story, but if I haven't, I want to repeat it because I think it's important for people to hear. My son, in his senior year, got a job working for the Red Sox in the spring of his senior year of high school. And we live in Providence. He was taking the train up to Boston. There were night games.

Gary Goldberg:

One night game was a double header. He was still in school during the day, and came back soaking wet, 40 degrees, sitting outside in the rain all day on the train on the way home, and he looked a little exhausted, a little stretched. 18 year old boy, a little stretched.

Gary Goldberg:

And I said to him, "Hey, buddy," and I probably shouldn't have said this, but I wanted to let him off the hook if he wanted to get off the hook. "Hey, if you're in over a head, it's okay. It's okay to say you're in over your head. Are you okay with this job?" And he looked at me so pissed off and he said, "Excuse me? If I had ever told Coach Willie that I was cold or I was tired, what do you think he would have done with me?" Right?

Gary Goldberg:

Now, you laugh, but as a father of an 18 year old boy, to hear him have that spirit of resolve, and to credit it with you ... You know, you want to teach your kids to feel purposeful. You want to teach your kids that they have an awesome sense of potential, and you can't do it alone. Parents alone can't do it, and I, to this day, repeat that story because of the profound impact you had on his ability to resolve. And that's-

Willie Edwards:

Oh, I [crosstalk 00:25:18] that story.

Gary Goldberg:

And by the way, Coach, that's one kid of probably a thousand that have got a Coach Willie story or a Coach Willie sensibility about working hard.

Gary Goldberg:

You know, I heard the stories about the kids doing the hills and they got butterflies before they went to practice because they knew you were going to run them, or whatever it is. But I think to a man and to a young woman who had you as a leader at that school, they can certainly chalk up a piece of, "Hey, I'm better for having gone through it."

Willie Edwards:

I really appreciate that. That's all it, really, is about, I mean, if you think about it. You know, just to have that type of impact-

Gary Goldberg:

Well, it's really interesting to hear that somebody early in your life took you aside and you said gave you a "life raft." They gave you food security. They gave you shelter-

Willie Edwards:

That's [crosstalk 00:26:17] That's why I am the way I am is because-

Gary Goldberg:

Right? They gave you safety.

Willie Edwards:

Yep. That's why I am the way I am. Yeah, those guys though ... You're blessed. You got two unbelievable boys on it. I mean, unbelievable family. I'm very blessed to have you guys as friends.

Willie Edwards:

Those guys, though, man, they just did their roles, you know what I mean? Sitchen's like, "Oh, I'm going to do this just like Billy has to make a tackle." You know what I mean? And so, I respect those guys so much, man. They've done so much. I mean, we're blessed with ... Every single year, those guys that wanted to help make our program better ... Got to give a shout out to Pete, too, before I get off this thing because if I don't-

Gary Goldberg:

Coach Pete?

Willie Edwards:

If I do not give a shout out to him ... He's another one, man, that really made my time at MB great because he just made things so much easier. And people on the outside, on the surface of things, they just see, "Oh, he does this. He bought this." No, it's all the stuff behind the scenes that really just allowed all of us as a coaching staff to really do our job and have fun with the kids.

Willie Edwards:

I mean, he would be there, on game days, a lot of times before I even got there, setting things up. I mean, they're people who hold the chains. Peter Wallick, that [inaudible 00:27:35] was really blessed to have that guy, man.

Gary Goldberg:

Coach, it's funny. When you think about the game of football, or any of these games, there's measurements, there's times, there's plays, there's athletes, there's objects, balls, field markers, right? But when I watched you coach the game, I was astounded at the complexity of the game of football and all the intricacies of what you were doing from the sideline, and your assistant coaches working.

Gary Goldberg:

The boys, coaching them up on the sideline. Showing them replay film, because you guys had those iPads, which is really cool to have.

Willie Edwards:

That is cool. Can't do it in college. Can't do that in college?

Gary Goldberg:

It's not allowed?

Willie Edwards:

Yeah. It's so silly.

Gary Goldberg:

Oh, that's funny. So, when you think about the physical part of the game that you went through, and then you go through this other piece which is mentorship and you talk about empathy, talk about showing how to care for people and a little tough love. But then, there's this extra dimension which is the gamesmanship, or what you call scheming, right? So, tell me a little bit about how you develop your schemes and where you became the football mind that you developed.

Willie Edwards:

Yeah. I think it was just ... Lifelong learning is key. And so, I think just adapting and taking. You know, "I'm going to take a little bit of that. Oo, I like that. I like this, I like that." And kind of putting it all together and making it your own thing, you know?

Willie Edwards:

On offense, we were a spread team, and I think that went back to before me, before LaJhon, when LaJhon was the assistant to Rick Reetz because I think he was a spreading guy at Moses Brown. He was one of the first shotgun guys. And so, when LaJhon took over, [Damon Ray 00:29:35] was the office coordinator, he ran spreads.

Willie Edwards:

So, a lot of our principles are based off of that spread. And then, myself and Joe Ucci offensively just built off of that. We just built off of that and just made it really creative.

Willie Edwards:

And then, when we took it to the next level was when we started adding tempo. We decided we're going to dictate how the [inaudible 00:29:57] is going to be. So, we're going to not huddle it up. Put that ball down. I'm going to signal in a formation, and we're going to use code words for a play, and we're going to get that ball slapped in 10 second.

Willie Edwards:

And that's why we ran all those hills. That's why those practices were really hard because we only had, on a good year, 40 boys. And not all of them were big, beefy-type kids, so we had to use every advantage. So, we used conditioning, our fitness level, and our kids' by-in and our kids' brain capacity, you know? That where Ray came from.

Willie Edwards:

And then, defensively, when it really all came together-together was when we got Vin's brother, Joe, because I'm an offensive line guy. I'm a football guy. I love football. I often lead in special teams. I do a lot. Love it. But I enjoy offense.

Willie Edwards:

And so, before Joe came, it was like Vin was doing the offense, I was doing it with him, and I was doing the D. And so, when Joe came, it kind of allowed me to go back and forth more freely because I can count on someone doing the D fully. So, yeah. Joe, that's when it really came together.

Willie Edwards:

But yeah, just by-in from everybody, Gary. In West Warwick High School we had a double tight end with a wing and we pounded the ball. And that's how football was back then, but we were even more smash-mouthed. Like, football was smash-mouthed back then, but we were even more smash-mouthed when I was in high school. So, I'm, like, total opposite. We were on shotgun spread.

Willie Edwards:

And that's the other thing, too. Everybody thinks, "Well, these guys just throw the ball with finesse." We pound you. And that's why me and Vinny's really good together because he came from a Wing T background, which is more running the ball, and I came from a spread background. And so, we really meshed well.

Willie Edwards:

We had Andrew Howard, for instance, that 2014 year. He runs for 1600 yards out of a spread offense, and we ran trap. Him and Max [Hanley 00:31:57], we ran trap, trap, trap, trap. And [inaudible 00:32:02] with finesse, but we really were a power running spread offense. Then, Super Bowl, we only threw the ball 10 times [inaudible 00:32:07]. It was raining, if you remember. It was a downpour, and we only threw the ball ... I only threw the ball 10 times that game.

Willie Edwards:

But yeah, the scheme is so much fun. I'm always learning, man. I'm always learning. I mean, the stuff I have for the Rams right now, it's going to blow your mind-

Gary Goldberg:

Well, that's what I wanted to transition to. You've also got a new gig with the LA Rams. So, what's going on with that? How'd you land that? And is this the next level of your development? And what kind of impact can you have there?

Willie Edwards:

Yeah. You know, it's an apprenticeship, so I'm barely going into it. Looking at it as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Gary Goldberg:

Great.

Willie Edwards:

Back of the mind mindset, if something comes out of it, great. But I'm not looking at it as ... You know. Because there's eight of us apprentice. There's eight of us. And I'm not competing with anybody. I'm competing with myself. I'm just learning.

Willie Edwards:

So, right now what we're doing is, we had a summit. We had, like, a nine hour Zoom summit where the general manager is there. All these people, like Ben Agajanian, just scouts. I mean, there's a bunch of really important Rams people on the call, and everybody has a presentation. We learned about the salary cap. We learned about pro scouting, and college scouting, and analytics. All of this stuff, run a full day.

Willie Edwards:

And so, now they've booked two of us with a mentor, and now, they're teaching us how to evaluate, how they do evaluations on players. So, we have two positions that we evaluated. Last month was quarterbacks and wide receivers, and this month we're doing tight ends and running backs. And so, at the end of the month, myself, the other apprentice, and our mentor will get together and we'll talk about the evaluations in all of those players-

Gary Goldberg:

Cool.

Willie Edwards:

Yeah, it's pretty awesome.

Gary Goldberg:

It's great to see that you're learning, continual learning.

Willie Edwards:

Yeah.

Gary Goldberg:

Hey, Coach-

Willie Edwards:

That's it.

Gary Goldberg:

... so, you played a lot of games both yourself and you coached a lot of games, and one of the questions that I like to ask on the show is, thinking about all those games that you've been in, what'd you gain more from, looking backwards, the wins or the losses, Coach?

Willie Edwards:

Yeah. It's always the losses, man. It's always the losses. Yeah. I mean, we've had some turn-the-corner losses, man. Ugh. 2013, we lost to Mt. Pleasant in the Super Bowl, Moses Brown. That team right now, that 2013, the class of 2014, I don't know if the school knows how amazing that class is. But the 11 boys that were seated in that class, we cried for a long time that night. You know what I mean? We cried for a long time.

Willie Edwards:

But they left ... If someone was recording that locker room after they left, when I was by myself, they would have thought a dead animal was in there because that was one that propelled us. That class propelled us to that run we went on. They went 10 and 2, and they lost to Mt. Pleasant when they had these unbelievable superstars on their team, and those kids were the first group that really bought into Breakfast Club. That's the Matt Romano class, the Erik Cosmopulos, Sebastian Farrell, of the world.

Willie Edwards:

So, yeah. That loss, I probably learned the most, man, because it really ... I had Benji Pinsky ask me, "Coach, I don't get it. We did everything we were supposed to do, everything you asked us to do, and we came up a [inaudible 00:35:33] short." And I had to explain to him that it's not really the destination, but it's really the journey. You didn't realize why we were doing all that stuff, that's the stuff that was the prize. You know what I mean?

Gary Goldberg:

Right.

Willie Edwards:

But yeah, it was the losses though, man. The losses, you learn more about the world. The wins are just memories, man. The losses are lessons.

Gary Goldberg:

That's a great way to look at it.

Gary Goldberg:

Hey, so people that are going to listen to this are going to want to reach out to you. And one of the things that we like to talk about at the end is if you're listening to Coach Willie and he's inspiring you to think about your coach, we want you to reach out to your coach, listener. But what about the people that want to reach out to you, Coach? How should they get ahold of you if they want to get back in touch with you and if they hear your voice again?

Willie Edwards:

Yeah. I mean, I'm free to give my number or my email. I'm on social media. I mean, I'm always open. My door's always open. I'll never not take a call, or anything. So, yeah.

Gary Goldberg:

Good. I think they want to talk to you. So, Coach, super great to have you today. I can't tell you what a spectacular experience I've had being around you on and off the field, and I wish you nothing but tremendous success with everything you do going forward. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to spend with us today.

Willie Edwards:

This was a lot of fun, man. It was good seeing you. Thank you so much.

Gary Goldberg:

It's good seeing you too.


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