High school football teams consider themselves a family, a tight-knit group of coaches, players and other staff that find closeness in their inner circle and community.
But few programs can match Reynolds High in its approach to the familial aspect of keeping it in house.
Five assistants on coach Shane Laws’ staff wore the green-and-gold as players who called Dalton Stadium home.
They represent different eras of Rockets football, from the 1970s to players who were on the field as recently as 2007.
Each understands what it means to play football at Reynolds, including a long tradition of success that features three state titles in 11 years (1999-2009) and 21 conference championships in the past 30 seasons.
“These guys are really invested in this,” Laws said. “All the championships and hard work, they’ve put it in as players and coaches.”
“Reynolds football is a passion within me that started in youth football when I was 6 years old,” said Billy Britt, 28, who coaches the secondary and played on the Rockets’ 2002 state title squad.
“I’ve played in big games, playoff games and state title games. I know what that feels like, and I can pass that on to these players,” said Britt, who works in glass sales when he is not coaching football.
“I like the fact that I am giving back to the program,” said Alexander Wall, the Rockets’ quarterback in 2007 who used his football skills to earn a scholarship at The Citadel.
“These coaches did a lot for me when I was here, so I want to pass that on and help these players out while I am home,” said Wall, 22, who graduated from The Citadel in May and will head off for Army training as part of his National Guard duties in February.
Neither Wall nor offensive line coach Will Towery, who also finished at Reynolds in 2007 and played at East Carolina, planned on being assistant coaches.
“Just to have something to do over the summer (of 2011), I came out and helped (the football program),” said Towery, 23.
“After I graduated (from ECU this spring), a teaching job opened up at (Reynolds Middle School), and coach Laws really wanted me to help with the team.
“It’s really a unique experience to coach where you used to play. My brother (Chance) plays on the team, and that’s pretty special for me and my family.”
Like Britt, Towery has a long history with East Asheville football.
“My dad (Tim) played here, so this is a long history and legacy with our family. I wouldn’t coach high school football anywhere else but Reynolds.”
Offensive coordinator Rick Roberts (1970s) and wide receivers coach Tim McLaughlin (’80s) also played for the Rockets.
Wall works with the quarterbacks and is young enough to remember what it’s like to deal with playing at this level.
“Some of us were here not so long ago, and I played under coach Laws, so I can relate to these kids and help them understand what he expects of them,” he said.
“Having all those coaches who played here really helps us because they understand the tradition and expectations of playing at Reynolds,” said junior quarterback Levi Ledford.
“And when coach Laws gets on me, coach Wall knows exactly what that’s like, because he used to to get on him.”
Laws said there are may benefits to having former players come back and keep giving to the program.
“Part of them is in this place. As much as it means to us, we didn’t grow up dreaming of playing or coaching for the Rockets,” he said.
“It was a dream come true for them to put on those green jerseys, and for them to come back and coach here, that means a lot to them and to our program.”