By TONY EIERDAM | firstname.lastname@example.org
Before this summer, he was known as the Weatherford Kangaroos kicker who stuck a dagger in Mineral Wells Rams fans' hearts with his game-tying field goal from 49 yards out as regulation time was expiring and later a 28-yard field goal in overtime to win the game in a 49-46 shootout at Miller field, the last time those two schools met.
Today, Matt Williams, 24, is in his first year of coaching the Mineral Wells Swim Team, and a Texas Tech graduate trying to get on as a high school teacher and coach.
He kicked as a walk on for Texas Tech from 2008-10, earning the job after then head coach Mike Leach witnessed Williams' form when he won a student kicking contest at halftime of a Red Raiders' game. Williams, who kicked a pair of field goals in Tech's memorable 39-33 win over then No. 1 Texas in 2008, has taught swimming most of his life, but has never coached a swim team.
Williams became aware of the opening when City of Mineral Wells Parks Director Brenda Lee called his mother, Linda Williams, Weatherford's swimming coach, and asked if she knew anybody who would be interested in the position of Mineral Wells Swim Team coach. She did, and she informed her son of the opening.
"I called Brenda, did an interview and got the job," Williams said.
Williams has been a competitive swimmer since age five, and he also competes with the team he coaches.
"I have never swam year-round, but I have always done TAAF (Texas Amateur Athletic Federation) in the summer," he said. "I love being in the water, and I enjoy the competition, which is rough when you get older.
"Once you get above the 9-10 age group, you are competing against kids who swim year-round. We have a lot of kids who compete in different sports throughout the year, and I feel that gives them a competitive edge."
Williams said his interaction with the kids is his favorite aspect of coaching the team.
"I like seeing kids improve, and the more they improve the better I feel as a coach. It makes me feel like I know what I am doing, and it lets me know what I am doing is working.
"But I just want the kids to have fun. We are getting good workouts in and competing at meets, but it is also a lot of fun. I am seeing good results, and that is always fun."
Williams' group, from ages six to adult, numbers 50 swimmers. He said he has the most swimmers in the 9-10-years age bracket, and that there is a huge difference between coaching the younger swimmers as opposed to the swimmers 14 and older.
"When you are coaching kids 14-18-years-old, you expect them to know what you want them to do," he said. "But you can't really expect the 9-10-year-olds to know exactly what you want. You have to tell them everything they have to do and what you want, but with my group once I tell them they are OK.
"It is a lot more hands on coaching the younger swimmers."
Williams said his experiences coaching the team have been both rewarding and frustrating.
"It is rewarding to see when the kids improve and improve in their times," he said. "When that 'light bulb' goes on – when you see that they get it – it is very rewarding.
"We had a girl who knocked off a minute from her 50-yard freestyle time from last year, and that makes you feel good. " Being just 24, Williams was unsure how the swim team members would respond to him and his style of coaching.
"What kind of surprised me was how well the kids have responded to me," he said. "I am only seven years older than the kids in our high school group, and the swimmers older than myself are also responding well."
Williams is pleased with the progress of the team after the first half of the summer.
"Everyone's times have improved a lot as the summer has progressed," he said. "We have many kids who have knocked off 10 seconds in some of their events compared to last year. That has been really rewarding for me."
Williams said when he is back in the area he is constantly reminded about his kick against the Rams. He was on the field as a wide receiver when the 'Roos completed a fourth-down pass with 12 seconds left in regulation to move the ball to the Rams' 32.
The WHS coaches, taking advantage of the clock being stopped to move the chains, hurried the field goal unit on the field. The 'Roos were out of timeouts.
"After a teammate tossed me my kicking tee (platform), I was already at my spot waiting for everyone else to line up," he recalled. "I got a good spot from Tyler Luttrell after the snap, and when I kicked it I saw it was straight and knew immediately it was good.
"I kicked two field goals against Texas (when Tech receiver Michael Crabtree caught a game-winning pass as time expired) in the biggest game in played in during college, but all everyone around here seems to remember is my kick against Mineral Wells.
"But I have to admit that was probably the biggest kick of my career. It was also the longest kick I have ever made in a game.
"I have had a lot of people come up to me and tell me they were at the game."
With the fine work he has been doing with the Mineral Wells swimming youth, and with the positive rapport he now has with the community, Matt Williams will now be seen as something other than a shark to Mineral Wells sports fans.