Dave Nutter took his son, Stephen, to his first day of football practice at La Plata High School two years ago and was shocked by what he saw. Namely, he saw that La Plata's coach was Joe Williams, who coached Nutter when he played for the Warriors in the late 1970s.
"I could not believe it," Nutter said. "I had kind of lost touch with Joe and did not know he was back at La Plata. He is one of the nicest people I know. I told my son he was going to enjoy playing for Joe."
It seems that almost everybody enjoys playing for Williams, who is in his 31st year of coaching in Southern Maryland. This season--the fourth of his second stint as La Plata's head coach--the Warriors are 3-0 entering Friday's 7:30 p.m. home game against Thomas Stone (3-0).
Williams first coached at La Plata from 1969 until 1979--first as an assistant, then as head coach from 1976 to 1979. But Williams left La Plata for personal reasons after a 6-4 season in 1979.
Beginning in 1980, Williams spent three seasons as an assistant at Thomas Stone and 11 seasons as an assistant at Lackey. He left coaching in 1993 to follow the career of his son, Brad, a former lineman at La Plata.
"I do not want to get into why I left La Plata [in 1979]," Williams said. "And it never crossed my mind that I would come back here. But I only live about two miles away, and when a job opened up back here, I thought I would apply for it. Once coaching is in your blood, it is hard to get rid of it."
His current players say they are pleased that Williams decided to come back.
"Coach Williams is fun to be around, and he makes sure there is always something fun going on," Warriors running back Titus Green said. "Sometimes when he talks about how good the teams were in the 1970s and how big they were, we kind of roll our eyes and smile. But we all know he knows what he is talking about."
That knowledge helped La Plata win four of five Southern Maryland Athletic Conference titles between 1972 and 1976, including the 1976 championship in Williams's first year as head coach. In 1995--the first year of Williams's second stint at La Plata--the Warriors won another SMAC title.
This season, Williams has several key players returning from last year's team--which also started 3-0 before finishing 5-5. Green has rushed for a team-high 369 yards in three games. Senior captains and starting linebackers Dennis Williamson and Raheem Archer lead the defense, which shut out Chopticon, 22-0, last week.
Williams has enough trust in Williamson and Archer that he lets them run some practice drills.
"Joe knows how to delegate responsibility. He gives everyone the space they need to do their jobs their own way," said Denny Tummino, La Plata athletic director and assistant football coach. "I applied to become coach when they hired Joe. Everyone asked me if I were disappointed I was not hired and I said no, because I knew Joe and knew he would do a good job. . . . I do not know anyone who does not like him."
Former and current players say the same thing.
"I was surprised that Joe was back at La Plata at first," Dave Nutter said. "But then I thought about it, and I was really pleased he came back. This is where he started. This is where he belongs."
CAPTION: "Once coaching is in your blood, it is hard to get rid of it," says Joe Williams, in his second stint at La Plata.