A new era begins for the ‘Big Red Machine’
Published 9:32 am Wednesday, March 6, 2013
By ANDREW FAISON/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
COURTLAND—Former professional football player and two-time high school state champion coach Willie Gillus Jr. was named the new head football coach at Southampton High School on Tuesday.
“It’s time to get the Big Red Machine rolling again,” Gillus said in front of the football team and administrators. “I am not here just to coach a team, I am here to build a program.”
Gillus replaces Wes Griffith, who resigned after three seasons at the helm.
Gillus will be paid $7,800, and also has been hired to serve as an academic success specialist at the high school for $52,000 annually. The position, which had been vacant, involves helping students graduate.
A former quarterback from 1982-1985 and later a 1988 graduate of Norfolk State University, Gillus has coached at Elizabeth City State University for the past seven years. After his career at NSU, he was a member of the Green Bay Packers in 1987 and Kansas City Chiefs in 1993. In the interim he played five seasons in the Canadian Football League including three seasons with the Toronto Argonauts, who captured the Grey Cup in 1991.
“The football tradition runs deep here at Southampton High School. This is the beginning of the Gillus era,” said SHS Principal Allene Atkinson.
Gillus served as head coach at Surry County High School from 1995-1999. While there, he compiled a 53-12 record, including Division 1 state titles in 1998 and 1999. During his tenure he was also named the Tri-Rivers District Coach of the Year four times and Region A Coach of the Year twice.
“This is the beginning of great things to come,” said Superintendent Dr. Alvera Parrish. “He has gone to so many places and had a positive impact on so many youth already.”
From 1999-2002 Gillus served as offensive coordinator for Virginia Union University where he helped capture the 2000 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship. His duties there included high school recruiting coordinator, strength and conditioning coach and pro football liaison.
“I feel good about turning the reigns over to him,” said SHS Athletic Director Littleton Parker. “He has a wealth of knowledge.”
Gillus wants to develop student athletes that can succeed not only on the field but in the classroom as well.
“I want these young men to compete not only on the field but in the classroom as well,” he said. “To us “A’s” are first downs, and “C’s and D’s” your punting.”
During the press conference Gillus was introduced to members of the football team.
“Growing up ‘The Big Red Machine’ scared me,” Gillus told the team. “Every player in this room should know the history of this program.”
“All you have to do is listen to him and you will be fine,” Parker said to the team. “He has the same values that we have, to be successful in the class room, on the field, and on to the collegiate level.”
Gillus told the team to rely on him as well as their fellow players.
“We are going to be lifelong friends,” he said. “I want you to know that when its ‘3rd&1’ and you look at your teammate to your side, you are going to be able to count on them.”
In preparation for the 2013 season Gillus, who will also serve as the weight room instructor, wants to focus on strength and conditioning his team.
“Those two aspects are keys to any athlete,” he said.
Looking forward to his first season at SHS along with Virginia High School League redistricting, Gillus wants to reignite local rivalries with Franklin High School and Greensville County.
“Those are must-win games. Of course we want to win against both of them especially since both will be in our district,” he said. “We just want to be able to look at any game and know that we left everything we had on the field.”