He won’t officially be on the job until his teaching responsibilities at Olentangy Liberty wrap up in June, but new Shelby football coach Erik Will can’t help but do a little moonlighting.
After all, he has a coaching staff to assemble, an offseason program to implement and, most importantly, a tradition to restore.
The 1999 Shelby graduate knows a thing or two about the school’s football tradition. His grandfather, the late Duane Will, played on Shelby’s first Northern Ohio League championship team in 1946 and Erik was a member of one of the greatest teams in program history.
“This program has been around for 119 years this year and it’s going to be around long after I’m gone,” said Will, who will teach high school Social Studies. “I am a caretaker of the program. I’ll embrace the tradition and maybe add a few chapters of my own.
“Shelby football has always been very important to my family. I’m sure if my grandfather was still alive, he’d be very proud.”
Will already is a part of program history. He was a member of the undefeated 1998 team that advanced to the regional championship game. That team finished 11-1, beating Poland Seminary in the regional semifinals before falling to Beloit West Branch.
“We had a pretty special group of guys,” the former cornerback said. “A lot of those guys are still my best friends.”
The coach of that NOL title team was Steve Hale. Will worked on Hale’s Olentangy Liberty staff for several seasons and considers him a mentor.
“His two greatest assets are he is the most organized person I’ve been around and he is the best motivator,” Will said. “I want to bring those traits with me. We won’t leave any stone unturned.”
So did Hale have any advice for his protege?
“He said the first thing I needed to do is figure out what we are going to run on third-and-three and work from there,” Will said. “That was his way of saying we need to figure out what our kids did well and play to our strengths.”
Will replaces Steve McCoy, who was 2-18 in two seasons. The Whippets were 2-8 last fall, beating NOL rival Willard in the regular season finale.
“The days of accepting mediocre football are over,” Will said. “It’s not good enough to just show up.”
Will and his wife, Katie, have two daughters, 3-year-old Anna and 2-month-old Lucy. His wife is an English teacher.
“Our family can’t wait to get up there,” he said. “We’re looking forward to getting involved in the community.”