AUBURN, Ala. — Travis Williams‘ first year as the linebackers coach at Auburn wasn’t what he expected. It was everything he’d hoped it would be and then some. And his bliss has continued this spring.
“I’m still on Cloud 9,” Williams said at assistant coach media day on Tuesday. “I’m blessed to be here and blessed to be able to coach the linebackers and it’s fun every day. Every day.”
Heading into 2016 the linebacker unit was one of the biggest question marks for the Tigers.
Yet Williams, who was an All-SEC linebacker at Auburn during its 2004 undefeated season (13-0), helped his mostly unproven group achieve instant success within coordinator Kevin Steele‘s defensive turnaround.
Throughout the year Williams found himself not only reflecting on his days playing for coach Joe Whitt, but implementing many of the philosophies he learned on and off of the field from the 25-year Auburn assistant coach.
“At the end of the day, we’re trying to win games. We want to win championships and all that. But we’re trying to impact lives and win lives,” Williams said. “They need to know how to be a man. They’re going to be a father and a husband one day. That’s where I come in. I’ve got to continue to mold them to be that. It’s way bigger than football. We need to be five minutes early. We’re not going to be late for class. We’re not going to miss class. If you’re late for a job or miss a job, they’re going to fire your tail. That’s real life. That’s all coach Whitt. Clean-shaved, all that good stuff.”
Now, Williams believes he could resemble Whitt in another way: by staying on the Plains for most of his career.
“Yeah, I mean, it don’t get any better than Auburn,” Williams said. “I don’t — shoot, I love being here. If I could, that would be a blessing. It’s just a great place. It’s a great place to raise your kids and have a family. It’s just a great place.”
It’s a realistic possibility for Williams to be around for a while longer, especially if his players continue to help Auburn ascend.
The continuity Steele, Williams and defensive line coach Rodney Garner are providing this spring is helping their defense build on what it accomplished last season.
“It was a great feeling. It’s a great start,” Williams said. “We got a long ways to go, but we got it going in the right direction, and it feels good to be a part of that, just being a part of changing the culture of how we play defense around here. Coach Steele has done a great job, and the coaches — our whole defensive coaching staff, it’s fun to come to work with all those guys. We have a great room. We enjoy coming around each other, and the kids see that, and it kind of trickles to the field. The kids love being around each other, so we’re just a fun group.”
Williams signed a few more talented linebackers he recruited in Auburn’s 2017 recruiting class.
Though K.J. Britt has been sidelined with a knee injury this spring, Chandler Wooten showed promise as an early enrollee. Tadarian Moultry, one of the top prospects in the state of Alabama, is set to arrive this summer, too.
Still, whether he’s dancing in his meeting room or standing on the field in Jordan-Hare Stadium, Williams is exactly where he wants to be.
“For me it can’t get any better. It’s a dream come true,” Williams said. “It goes to show you that Auburn, if you do right by Auburn, Auburn will do right by you. We have so many guys—guys and girls that are working in the athletic department. That right there is showing the country that Auburn is really taking care of their own and giving them opportunities. For me, I’m the linebacker coach; I played linebacker. It doesn’t get any better than that. Just up and down the halls, different people are coming back. It’s a testament to our athletic director and leadership of just, OK, we’re going to get the right people in the right seats and get their career started. It’s awesome.”