Gerald Williams, 35, is in his first season as the boys track and field coach at Berkmar. Williams teaches special education and is also an assistant on the football team. Williams spent the previous eight years at Towers and is a 1995 graduate of Tucker.
Williams played football at the University of Oklahoma and graduated in 1999 with a degree in business management. He also has a master's degree from Troy University in instructional technology. Williams spent three years in the NFL on the practice squad and played in NFL Europe.
Williams and his wife Alisha have two daughters -- Bailey, 5, and Blair, 3.
In this latest installment of "Getting To Know ... ," staff writer Brandon Brigman talks to Williams about the Berkmar track program, beating a future Olympian in high school and his playing days in the NFL.
BB: How do you feel the season has been going and what's your expectation for the rest of the year?
GW: The season is going pretty good. The boys are kind of young, but they are setting themselves up for a really good season next year. The girls have been doing pretty well. They've been top two in every meet except for one. We have a lot of new people trying new events and catching on.
BB: You grew up in DeKalb and taught the last eight years there. What made you want to move to Gwinnett?
GW: It's closer to home. It was just time for a new change. I have a lot of connections in Gwinnett.
BB: How does the track competition compare from DeKalb to Gwinnett?
GW: I think the competition in the distance races is probably a little tougher than in the sprints. This is probably one of the better years for Gwinnett County in terms of overall in track. Previously DeKalb probably would have been a couple of notches ahead in the sprints, but this year Gwinnett is holding its own in everything.
BB: Did you run track at Tucker?
GW: We won state my senior year and the following year. I was teammates with a gold medalist on our team. Dwight Phillips, he was a gold medalist (in the long jump at the 2004 Olympic Games). Individually, I came in second in the 400 and second in the 200, so I was pretty good sprinter.
BB: How much did it sting taking second in two events?
GW: In high school, it hurt pretty bad because it was my senior year and I really wanted to win and the guy that beat me my junior year, beat me my senior year. He's a coach now at another AAAAA school, so I get to see him all the time. We just kid each other all the time. It stung, but I knew when I went to college I would be playing football and I would be on to bigger and better challenges.
BB: Could you tell Dwight was pretty good and could do something special later in life?
GW: Actually, we used to kill each other in practice so bad and nobody probably worked as hard as we did. That's what I preach to the kids now. Hard work will take you so far. He had decent talent and I used to always beat him. I could never get out of his mind that I was going to beat him. He finally beat me my senior year. I just couldn't get it out of his mind. We ran summer track, school track, our senior year he finally beat me and it was because of hard work. He just kept on working and kept on progressing and eventually he became world class and No. 1 in the world. I saw that at an early age.
BB: When you played football at Tucker, you probably played with or against some studs as well.
GW: Yeah, we had Patrick Pass. As soon as I say that name everyone pretty much knows who that is. He won three Super Bowl championships with the New England Patriots. We had a lot of talented guys coming through at that time.
BB: You played football at Oklahoma in the Big 12. Does the Big 12 even have a conference anymore?
GW: It's kind of disturbing to see Texas A&M, especially. Missouri is the little sitters, so I'm not worried about Missouri. They'll get beat up in the SEC, but Texas A&M is a big recruiting base and it has a lot of talent. It's kind of sad to see them go, but to add TCU and adding West Virginia is going to make the conference even stronger. Especially out here, people don't really give the Big 12 respect. We always have the best quarterbacks, always win the Heisman trophies. We are in the national championship every other year. There's a lot of good football out there.
BB: The only problem is you're usually losing to an SEC school.
GW: Yeah, I guess we don't pay as much as the SEC schools.
BB: Why couldn't you ever catch on with an NFL team?GW: I came into the league as a free agent. When you come in you're at the bottom of the totem pole and you kind of have to be willing to play special teams. I never really played special teams in college. I don't know, just being at the bottom of the totem pole you have to prove yourself time in and time out.
BB: What was it like playing with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb?
GW: We played him in college, too. We used to always rag him, too. When he had the incident with him throwing up in the Super Bowl. He did that when he came to Norman. We used to give him grief about that. He was a really good guy. I not only got a chance to play with McNabb, but with Brett Favre, Rich Gannon, Cade McNown, Dante Hall, so I got to play with a lot of good athletes.
BB: When did you realize you just weren't going to make it in the NFL?
GW: Well, I could have kept at it for a long time. There's a lot of guys that kept at it and eventually made it. There was a DB on my team he was not really that talented, but he was a workaholic and he was on every special teams. He played from '99 to '09 or '10 because he was willing to be late on some car payments or be late on some rent or whatever to fill in the time. I just wanted a little more stability. After coming from the NFL Europe my last year, I was tired. I was tired of bouncing around and it was too much. Mentally, I kind of shut down.
BB: I understand your little girls are always here with you at track practice?
GW: Oh yeah. They are like the mascots. Ever since they were born they've been around, especially track. Hopefully, I can get them into it. They seem to like it, so hopefully I can get them into it.
BB: Does having two girls make you sensitive?
GW: (laughs) Well, everyone says I'm kind of nice to them. I tell them when I'm behind closed doors I'm real mean to them.
BB: What did you do for spring break?
GW: We practiced. This is really our only opportunity to fine-tune things with coaching before region and sectionals. We really had to use that week to practice because the next coming weeks we'll be having meets and only have a chance to fine tune.
BB: So I hear you're a hurdle guru. Is that right?
GW: Yeah, I'm pretty knowledgeable about the hurdles. I just read every article I could, watched every video I could find and picked every professionals ... I'm pretty good friends with Angelo Taylor, and Olympic athletes as well and kind of just picked their brains and did all the research I could. I've had pretty good results the past couple of years.
BB: Is it hard to convince a kid to run really fast at an object and then jump over it and not kill themselves?
GW: Yeah, it is at first, but once kids have a little success at it, it startles them they have success early. They might not be a great sprinter or 800 runner, but once I put them in the hurdles and they have success it kind of startles them. All the kids have fun at it and they enjoy it.
BB: This is your first year at Berkmar, but how long do you see yourself here?
GW: There's a lot of good, talented kids. I would just like to keep working with the young kids and see them as far as they can go. There's a lot of good talent in this area. I'd like to win state. When we win state, I'll re-evaluate the situation.