His network stretches from Pittsburgh to Buffalo, from the NFL ranks in stadiums to the sets of ESPN on college campuses across the nation. It reaches former coaches and former players, new buildings and Halls of Fame. But it all rests in Williamsburg, near where English colonists settled, where Jimmye Laycock helped reconstruct and redefine the William & Mary football program.
Laycock, whose Tribe will face Maryland on Saturday in the season opener at Byrd Stadium, is the second-longest-tenured football coach in Division I, behind Albany’s Bob Ford. Laycock is entering his 33rd season with William & Mary, still going strong, still carrying the lessons from his playing days at his alma mater, where as a cornerback and quarterback he learned under former Bills Coach Marv Levy and college legend Lou Holtz.
“Initially, I got a very, very strong foundation for coaching because of who I played under,” Laycock said. “I had a very good understanding for techniques and specifics and how things should be done the right way.
“And then I’ve gone on, tried to incorporate that and tried to develop my own style, my own way of doing things. Most of the time, I kind of have to have that now, I guess.”
After graduating from William & Mary in 1970, Laycock bounced around as an assistant, including one stint at The Citadel where he served under Bobby Ross on a staff that included Frank Beamer and Ralph Friedgen.
Then, in 1980, Laycock was hired to lead the Tribe. He hasn’t left since.
He guided current Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, then a record-setting wide receiver for th Tribe, in the mid-’90s. Two years ago, William & Mary entered the FCS playoffs as the second overall seed after knocking off three top 10 teams. In 2009, the Tribe equaled a school-record 11 wins. And on June 21, 2008, the school christened the Jimmye Laycock Football Center, an $11 million facility dedicated in his honor.
“You can’t be at a place like William & Mary with high standards and high expectations for 33 years without possessing all the necessary qualifications you want in an individual to work with your child,” Holtz said in a video posted on William & Mary’s athletics Web site. “Who would have thought, 33 years ago when Jimmye Laycock came here, that he would have such an outstanding career. And he’s not done yet. He’s been highly recruited by other schools. But his love for William & Mary shows, as a coach and as a leader.”
Showing few signs of slowing down – “Yeah, coffee,” Laycock said – he loves the challenge that renews itself every season. He enjoys the relationships, getting to know more players and parents and alumni each fall.
He still finds time to escape the grind. Golf helps. He plays with a friend every spring at Augusta National on a long weekend. Used to play more than he does these days, though. He’s taken two vacations in the past 10 years. He golfed in Scotland in 2004. In 2010, he spent a week at the beach with his daughter, her husband and his granddaughter. Of his children, one is in the U.S. Army, another is married in Atlanta. His third is at William & Mary, and another just went away to college.
But something keeps driving Laycock back to Williamsburg. Plenty of schools have tried to lure him away. In 1990, Laycock accepted an offer to coach Boston College. Hours later, at 5:20 a.m., he doubled back and turned it down. Tom Coughlin eventually got that job. He interviewed for the Maryland head coaching gig in 1991. Each one was a different situation, and each time he looked around and realized he wasn’t ready to leave home.
He got into coaching to teach and coach. He never got in for fame and money. “And I never made money,” Laycock says. In the college’s new football center, the foyer is dedicated to the program’s tradition, with a full wall honoring William & Mary’s football history, which has really become synonymous with Laycock’s history.
“One advantage I’ve seen, the fact I’ve been there as long as I have, a lot of former players still feel they have a connection with the football program and the school,” Laycock said. “And that there’s a coach there they remember, like him or not.”