Longtime William and Mary head football coach Jimmye Laycock ’70 had a plan for how he wanted to announce his retirement.
“I told some people, when I’m finished, I’m going to hang a sign on my door that says ‘gone to the golf course, it’s over,’” Laycock said.
The spotlight was unmistakably on Laycock Monday at Tribe football’s media day following the Sunday evening announcement of his impending retirement.
“It wasn’t just a one-time thing that I woke up and said, ‘this is it,’” Laycock said. “I can assure you of that. As you know me and other people know me, I’m going to give things a good bit of thought. It has just kind of built up over a good period of time, and then this summer I had an opportunity and I reflected on it a lot.”
Despite Laycock’s calm attitude, Monday’s press conference held a lot of weight; both current athletic director Samantha Huge and former athletic director Terry Driscoll were in attendance. It took poking and prodding from the media, but Laycock did talk about how far the College’s football program has come since he was hired in 1979.
“Had I known the situation, what it was like [at the College], I don’t know if I would have been as quick to take the job as I [was],” Laycock said. “But it was an eye-opening experience. … William and Mary football is in really good shape. It’s poised to continue to move forward and be successful after I’m out of here.”
“William and Mary football is in really good shape. It’s poised to continue to move forward and be successful after I’m out of here.”
That was as far back as Laycock would look on his tenure. The coach, heading into his 39th season at the helm of the Tribe, was emotional at times during the session, but refused to be retrospective. Instead, he focused his sights on what he considers to be a promising season ahead of a young team.
“I want to put the emphasis on moving forward,” Laycock said. “I don’t want to put the emphasis on what’s happened, or what’s gone through, or what’s a year been like, or reminisce. I’m not interested in doing that.”
“I want to put the emphasis on moving forward.”
Last year, the College finished 2-9, including 0-8 in Colonial Athletic Association play. It was the first time since the Tribe joined the CAA in 1992 that the team did not win a single conference game. In the offseason, though, Laycock was impressed with just how hard the team worked.
“I think we probably had the most we’ve ever had over the summer insofar as working out over the summer and conditioning,” Laycock said. “That tells you that they understand the importance of working together. Their attitude has been excellent.”
The defense, led by team captains linebacker Nate Atkins and cornerback Raeshawn Smith, was ahead of the offense last season. With most of the unit returning and entering the second year of a new system, the group is ready to pick up right where it left off.
“Last year, we were really young on defense,” Atkins said. “And this year, it feels like we’re an older group but really, we are still young. Just having that experience already at this kind of stage of our growth as a defense is huge because we really are still a young defense.”
The fate of the offense is less decisive entering the 2018-2019 season. The quarterback spot is completely up for grabs, although sophomores Ted Hefter and Shon Mitchell have the inside track to the starting job. The quarterback position is key for the Tribe’s upcoming season.
“I think you look at this league, and you look at how tough this league is, and if you’re going to be successful in this league, you got to play great defense and you’ve got to have great quarterback play,” Laycock said. “If you get those two things clicking, you’re going to win more than you’re not going to win.”
After injuries last season, both junior running back Albert Funderburke and redshirt senior wideout DeVonte Dedmon will return to the field. While Funderburke was expected back for the College, Dedmon was granted a fifth year of eligibility by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, giving the speedster another chance to put on the green and gold.
“I just thank God every day,” Dedmon said. “I guess it was a blessing in disguise, you could say. I got hurt, sat out last year, got to thinking myself. Got to think about different things and just grow as an individual. I hit places I never thought I would, just talking to coaches. I think I’m a better man today because of it and I just appreciate things at a different level now.”
After speaking to the press, the Tribe held its first practice of the season. One thing is for certain: The Tribe will play its heart out for its retiring coach.
“It’s kind of inevitable,” Atkins said. “Hopefully people aren’t withholding effort right now, but any little ounce of effort that we can give to help make this. And obviously we wanted to have a great year regardless, but it means even more now.”