COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The NJCAA national office announced Monday that Georgia Military's Bert Williams is the 2013 recipient of the Spalding® NJCAA Football Coach of the Year award as presented by the NJCAA Football Coaches Association.
"It is always exciting and humbling as well to receive such recognition from one's peers," Williams said. "It is especially so in this case given the difficulty of the season and the travel we had to undertake to play a highly competitive schedule. I feel like the award is really a testament to the consistent hard work and dedication of our coaches, players, and support staff and I am honored to accept it on all of our behalf."
Entering the 2013 season ranked outside the Top 20, Williams directed Georgia Military to a perfect 11-0 regular season and the program's first-ever appearance in the NJCAA National Championship Game. The Bulldogs claimed wins over four top 10 opponents during the season – including victories over No. 2 Snow, No. 10 ASA, No. 2 Iowa Western, and No. 6 Nassau.
"Well, you never go into the season expecting to lose a game, but when you start a season playing a Blinn program on the road, Snow at their home, ASA on the road, defending national champion Iowa Western, Ellsworth at their home, and Nassau at home as six of your first eight games, people might think you were a bit optimistic if you said you expected to be undefeated at the end of the season."
In their sixth game of 2013, the Bulldogs knocked off defending national champion Iowa Western, 48-38. The win snapped the Reivers' 18-game winning streak – the longest in the nation, dating back to November 2011. Williams identified the victory as one of the key points in Georgia Military's campaign.
"When we were able to get a win over Iowa Western, the thought started to come around about maybe making a run for the championship game even though we still had several difficult games ahead," he said. "Consistent improvement by our guys and a continued effort by our players to work hard and improve each day made us feel like we had a chance.
Despite falling 52-32 to No. 2 East Mississippi in the NJCAA National Championship Game, Williams and the Bulldogs notched their first 11-win season since winning the national championship in 2001. Concluding his 14th season at the helm in Milledgeville, Ga., Williams has a career record of 113-37 and the fifth-most wins among active NJCAA coaches. Williams' consistency is accentuated by the high turnover rate at the two-year level.
"Replacing half a team each year is a huge challenge," Williams said. "Recruiting and training with limited resources is far more challenging than in many four-year programs. Building team chemistry is always a challenge because it is easy for players to focus on individual success rather than team success – worried more about being recruited than by moving forward as a team. I think one of the most underrated challenges is with coaches having the ability to be flexible in their schemes. We all have offensive and defensive systems we want to run, and we recruit to fit to those systems, but I think it is important to realize the need to adjust and do what your talent and strengths allow you to do at a high level."
Despite the consistent success that Williams has enjoyed at Georgia Military, this season's team benefitted from the outstanding play of freshman running back Jovon Robinson. The former Auburn-signee set new NJCAA single-season rushing marks with 2,387 yards and 34 touchdowns on the ground in 2013. Despite having the 2013 Spalding® NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year in his backfield, Williams pointed to the team's cohesiveness as their key to success.
"Looking back, I can honestly say the years we have had the most success have been the years we have had the strongest team unity," Williams said. "We have been blessed to have a high level of talent most years, but when those guys buy in and start to care a little about each other, it makes a huge difference in the team chemistry and performance. This season was very similar to our other highly successful seasons in those regards."
Williams was inducted into the NJCAA Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2010 and previously was named NJCAA Football Coach of the Year in 2001. Despite the accolades, Williams is quick to credit others and focuses on the main goal of two-year collegiate athletics – giving student-athletes the opportunity to succeed.
"I would like to thank all of the coaches out there for the hard work they put into their programs and the many things over the years I have learned from them," he said. "In victory and defeat, I always try to take something from our opponents – both what they do and how they do it. I have learned a ton from a lot of great junior college coaches out there and some of the lessons were not fun to learn. We have the opportunity to do something special every day for our young men. You have to take advantage of that opportunity and make a difference in their lives every day."
After graduating from Davidson College, Williams' first stint in his coaching career was as a graduate assistant at Georgia from 1990-94. The former quarterback at Westside High School in Augusta, Ga., then became the offensive coordinator at Union College before accepting the same position at Georgia Military in 1997.
About the Spalding® NJCAA Football Coach of the Year award
The NJCAA Football Coaches Association annually recognizes the top head football coach in the country with the NJCAA Football Coach of the Year award. Spalding® partnered with the NJCAA in 2013 to become the title sponsor of the award.
Spalding® in the Collegiate Football Market
Spalding® is currently the official football of the Arena Football League (AFL) – a distinction held since 2004. In the collegiate market, Spalding® is the official football the Southwestern Athletic Conference (NCAA Div. I), the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference (NCAA Div. I), the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (NCAA Div. II) and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (NCAA Div. II). Spalding® is a trademark of Russell Brands, LLC.
About the NJCAA
Since 1938 the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) has been the governing body of two-year college athletics, offering athletic and academic opportunities to college students. The NJCAA is the second largest national intercollegiate athletic organization in the United States with over 500 member schools in 43 states. Each year nearly 60,000 student-athletes compete in one of 28 different sports and the organization sponsors 48 national championship events and nine football bowl games. NJCAA Headquarters has been located in Colorado Springs, Colo., since 1985. For more information visit www.njcaa.org.