By Andrew D. Holt (UTC/The Loop)—
When Will Healy walked off the Finley Stadium field after his Richmond Spiders won the FCS championship last December, he had a feeling he would be back — and soon.
For Healy, the past eight months have been an exciting, yet busy time. A time that included his Richmond Spiders winning their first ever national championship was made even sweeter a few days later as he landed his first college coaching job at UTC. “It’s been pretty remarkable,” said Healy, a 2003 Boyd Buchanan graduate. “Winning the national championship in my hometown, in front of my family and friends, it was just a storybook ending.”
To say that Healy, a Chattanooga native, has football in his blood is an understatement. In fact, his family history, as it relates to football, resembles the lineage of two current NFL quarterbacks with the last name Manning. Both Healy’s father and uncle played major college football in addition to his grandfather, who was an All-American offensive lineman at Georgia Tech. As a 2008 graduate of the University of Richmond and former member of the football team, Healy is merely keeping the family tradition alive — only this time he’s taking it one step further as a coach.
The national championship marked the end of Healy’s playing days but he had a feeling, or at least hoped his career with football wasn’t completely over. Less than a week after UTC announced the hiring of former Richmond defensive coordinator Russ Huesman as its 22nd head football coach, Huesman called Healy and offered him a position on his coaching staff. “[Huesman] told me he wanted me on board, and it was an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down,” Healy recalled.
Healy’s title is offensive assistant, but he maintains that he’ll spend most of his time with the quarterbacks, fitting for a player who played the position from middle school all the way through college. Whatever his title, he’s just glad to have the opportunity to jump right into coaching straight out of college without having to work as graduate assistant, which is the more conventional route.
But the lure of home and the UTC job was too much for him to pass up. “What was so appealing about this was to be able to have some input in what goes on offensively,” he offered.
Because he was hired just a few weeks before high school players can sign their national letters of intent, Healy spent much of his first month working the phones and evaluating film of potential prospects, something he admittedly enjoys. “The recruiting aspect is something that’s really exciting to me,” said Healy, the youngest member of the new football staff. “It’s an interesting thing to view from the coaching side. I like building those relationships.”
At just 24 years old, Healy knows his age might be a bit of an obstacle to overcome, but he considers it something he can turn into a positive. “I’m barely removed from the situation,” he said. “So I know what they’re going through when they have to get up early and go run outside in the freezing cold.” As a first-year coach, Healy recognizes it will take him some time to develop his own style of coaching but insisted much of his philosophy will be centered upon strong relationships with his players, something he valued as a former player. “I think it’s really important for these guys to realize that I care about them, and that I want them to do well,” he said. He said his goal is to teach as much as possible, while learning at the same time, because even by his own admission, he doesn’t know it all.
Healy knows what it takes to rebuild a losing program. It was just three years ago when the University of Richmond president sought to eliminate scholarship football because of the school’s struggles to field a competitive team. “I want to try and bring some of those same philosophies that made us so successful at Richmond here to UTC,” he said.
It’s a bit cliché to say that it will take a lot of hard work to turn around a program that’s been mired by failure as much as UTC has in the last several years, but it is the truth says Healy. “We have to help these players understand what it takes to be successful,” he said. “It’s a mentality, whether it’s in the classroom or on the football field, whatever opportunities these guys have, they have to give 110 percent.”
Even with the past lack of success, Healy believes there are still a lot of good things to sell at UTC and that it’s just a matter of putting a winning product on the field. “I believe in what Coach Huesman’s trying to do and I believe in what these other coaches are teaching,” he said. “And I couldn’t be happier to be back home to help turn this thing around.”