PALM BAY – Bobby Willcox moved to Brevard County to work as the defensive coordinator for then-Bayside head coach Jerrod Ackley. He drove up to the school in February, and by July, he was interviewing for the head coaching job.
Ackley left for a job in Texas, and Willcox became the third coach in three years for the Bears.
Willcox is a New Mexico product who has coached at several colleges across the country, coming most recently from a fundraising job at Portland State University.
He played high school ball in his home state and then at Western New Mexico. His degree is from New Mexico State.
Though Willcox, 37, was a receiver himself and has coached both offensive and defensive positions, it is defense that has become his specialty.
He was one of five head coaching changes in Brevard in the offseason. He talked to FLORIDA TODAY on Friday.
Q: What were your thoughts when you suddenly found yourself in the head coaching role? Did you have a 1-2-3 set of priorities?
Willcox: I was already planning. Am I going to change a lot for the boys or am I going to work myself into it and keep everything the same? I had all those thoughts on paper. I’ve been through programs at New Mexico State and Tiffin (University in Ohio), where we really had to come in and change the whole culture, really a whole new philosophy at those programs, so I’d kind of been prepared to do something like this.
Q: What have been the biggest surprises, maybe a pleasant one and a not-so-pleasant one?
Willcox: The biggest surprise is how the parents are getting behind this program. We really didn’t have a booster program. I believe it’s the kids going home and talking positive to the parents, and they see that from the kids. To me, these kids have responded to the change.
The downfall of it is probably raising money. Coming in here, there wasn’t a lot of equipment, and there are a lot of things I’d like to get for these boys. It goes back to that booster club, too. We’re coming together, and eventually we’ll get to where we have nice equipment out on that field.
Q: Your history includes work with some names people would recognize. Who are your mentors?
Willcox: Well, I started with Hal Mumme. He was the head coach at Kentucky and Valdosta. He was the first coach to hire me, and I learned a lot from him. He was on the offensive side, and I was on the defensive side. I got to learn under Woody Widenhofer, a former defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Vanderbilt head coach. He has four Super Bowl rings with the Steelers. Herb Paterra, who had coached at every level, from the Detroit Lions to Michigan State, Vanderbilt. I got the opportunity to coach under Mike DuBose, the Alabama coach, at Millsaps College.
Those four coaches right there (presented) an amazing opportunity to learn to coach and everything that’s involved in it.
Q: You’ve done some other things, like some fundraising at Portland State. What can you draw from things you’ve done outside of coaching?
Willcox: It’s funny, because I go to Portland State to raise money for the athletic department, corporate sponsorship sales. It wasn’t a bad job, but I wasn’t involved with the athletes, and that’s what I missed. I was walking into businesses and talking to owners and CEOs. Now, as a head coach, I’m going to get to do that. That will be beneficial that I did that job. I’m really glad I took that job and had that opportunity to learn that side of the business.
Q: You’ve mentioned you don’t know the teams around here. Will you watch lots of film?
Willcox: Being in college football, you can’t go scout a live game. That’s how I grew into the business. I will watch a ton of film. I will know the teams that we’re playing like the back of my hand, because that’s what I know. To me, the more video you watch, the more you study, the more you learn from it. That’s what I expect out of my coaches, too. We’re going to watch a lot of film and have these kids prepared.
Q: Is scouting a particular strength of yours?
Willcox: The coaches I was mentored by, everything is film. The more you watch, the more you get out of it. If you think you’re going to watch film for one day, you’re not going to get much out of it.
Q: To watch that much film, you have to really love football, don’t you?
Willcox: Even when I was out of football, I had a little office in my garage. I’d go set up my projector and I’d watch film. I have a collection, and I’d just sit there and break down film. Yeah, you’ve got to love it, because there are not a lot of people who do it, but I do. I love that part of it. It makes me feel smart, I guess.
Q: A year from now, how will Bayside fans describe Bobby Willcox teams?
Willcox: I hope next year, and I’ve told this to the players, I want them to say they’re the toughest, classiest team that they’ve ever been around. When we get on that field, I want to get after people, but I want to do it with class. I want to do it with sportsmanship. I want to have great kids, because when they leave here, I want them to get out in society and be that same person. I’m not worried about wins and losses; I’m worried about character and work ethic, because that’s what they’re going to take when they leave here.
Contact McCallum at 321-242-3698 or bmccallum@florida
today.com. Follow high school sports news on Twitter @321preps.
FLORIDA TODAY takes a look at each football team around the county, profiling a different one each day. Monday: Rockledge.
2014 Bears Schedule
Sept. 5 Rockledge 7
Sept. 12 Sebastian River 7
Sept. 19 at South Fork 7
Sept. 26 Ft. Pierce Westwood 7
Oct. 2 at Jensen Beach 7
Oct. 10 at Melbourne 7
Oct. 17 at Port St. Lucie 7
Oct. 24 Okeechobee 7
Oct. 31 Heritage 7
Nov. 7 at Palm Bay 7
Meet the Players
Chris Hill, Sr., 6-0, 160, WR/S
Dream job: Haven’t thought about that yet.
Teammate he’d most like to trade places with: Andy O’Steen. Middle linebacker seems like it would be a fun job.
Movie he liked this summer: “Draft Day”
Go-to fast food item: Chik-fil-A chicken sandwich
Best memory of 2013 season: Making the playoffs