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Willie Gillus Jr., the new football coach at Southampton High School, signs his contract while SHS Principal Allene Atkinson, Asst. Principal/Athletic Director Littleton Parker and Asst. Prinicpal Aronda Bell look on Tuesday. -- ANDREW FAISON/TIDEWATER NEWS
Willie Gillus Jr., the new football coach at Southampton High School, signs his contract while SHS Principal Allene Atkinson, Asst. Principal/Athletic Director Littleton Parker and Asst. Prinicpal Aronda Bell look on Tuesday. -- ANDREW FAISON/TIDEWATER NEWS

Archived Story

A new era begins for the ‘Big Red Machine’

Published 9:32am Wednesday, March 6, 2013

By ANDREW FAISON/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
andrew.faison@tidewaternews.com

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.”

  • mrt854u

    Some people don’t seem to understand….. Football is the most popular sport in America, like it on not…. When a high school has a great football program that everyone want to see, more people come out to watch the games…. Thus in return, generate MORE revenue for the school, and county. With more revenue coming in, then the school can afford to hire more teachers, and make upgrades when needed. It’s a smart move for Southampton. Gillus took Surry County to the state title game four consecutive years in a row, winning back to back state titles. Look how that school faired when he left to coach in the collegiate level.

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  • dkirk

    This really doesn’t surprise me at all. Southampton has and will continue to make decisions like this. Keep on voting them back in people this is what you will get. I wish the coach all the best but in times like this when teachers are being let go come on man not now bad timing really bad.

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  • realist

    Heard the same about basketball, also hearing that neither resigned but were not renewed by the school board. Wonder if we have not been told the truth and if and I say IF we have not been told the truth WHY. Girls basketball had poor season is coach Bell suddenly going to decide to resign. I hope neither has or will happen as we can’t afford two more academic sussess specialists.

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  • chilimac72

    If you consider the number of students he is impacting, the pay is not excessive. Think about it, a football coach will lead 100 or so young men. If he can be a positive influence on them, that is a lot more success stories when it comes to graduation and productivity as a citizen. That is not even considering the possibility of college. That is just the coaching side, not even considering what he may do in his other position. I personally would like to see that job more clearly defined for the citizens of this county.

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  • joeyh513

    It still seems odd that Coach Parker isn’t the head coach. It’s Probably going to take Gillus a few years to get the program back to where it was in the 70′s, mid to late 90′s and early 2000′s but he sounds like the right man for the job. Past coaches have had some positions in the school where they didn’t teach so don’t think there’s a problem with that.

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    • Natalya

      No problem to create a job in order to pay a coach $60,000 to divide up job duties of present administration and guidance when the county claims to have had such financial hardships that they had to let some staff go?

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  • SandMan

    This just in: Mrs. Atkinson has agreed to cut her “Hair Spray Stipend” by 50%…..thus freeing $60,000. in the budget to pay for Coach Gillus’s services!

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  • Baseball

    Who makes the decision on the hiring of teachers,coaches,etc. Does the school board have any input. Rumor has it that the head boys basketball coach has been fired also. Anybody want to shed any light on this

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  • gregscottc3f

    I think this is a AWESOME hire!! Well deserve and well respect!! Wish you the best Coach Gillus and you have my full support!! Go Indians!!

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  • momto2Js

    Would much rather hire back the speech therapist and all the teacher assistants they fired last year. They are needed more than this. Already had a decent coach; guess my priorities are different. I think athletics gets too much attention.

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  • mom23cutekidz

    What are his qualifications for the Academic Success Specialist? If it is an administration position, does he have an administration or teaching certification, which is required for any other position in the county? I think it’s great that they got a good coach but in today’s economy, with all the educational budget cuts, this seems a little ridiculous. Our classroom teachers aren’t getting paid anywhere near this amount. We can’t offer SAT prep classes to our high school students to improve their academic success and chances to go to college but we can pay a football coach nearly $60,000/year? Maybe I’m missing something but I’d like to know exactly what the Academic Success Specialist will do? Maybe he can teach the SAT prep course???

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    • Natalya

      This position was never advertised on their website and it honestly seems like they created an position in order to pay a person they believed would be a great coach so that he would come to Southampton.

      This job sounds like it should be the responsibility of the guidance department and present administration and they need to explain what this job position entails.

      I realize that this person has experience and could do some good things but when important positions are cut due to budgetary reasons and then they “find” $60,000 to hire a football coach it looks bad on the county.

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      • 23851

        I don’t know what teaching certificates he may have or even what he may have majored in. But I do know this was not an “invented” position. He will have classes just like any other teacher. He will have 3 blocks and a planning like any other teacher. His role will be to help students with work they are struggling with in other subjects. It’s almost like a tutor type position. Its not like the man will not have any other responsibilities other than football and weightlifting.

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      • Natalya

        23851,

        His salary is for an administration position so he will not be teaching and the job title is vague with no provided job description. He has no classroom experience and no license and it seems like this position was handed to him to coax him into coming to the county to lure in a great coaching candidate.

        It is great that Southampton has a good coach and I wish him well but when teachers are getting worked to death in the county at the moment and the buses are barely getting by this just seems like a wreckless expense.

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      • dkirk

        I think like alot of other things in this county it was done on the good old boy system. It happens all the time here and will continue to happen. we have leaders who don’t care about what the public thinks they just do what they want crazy.

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    • G8

      Not that it really relates to this article, but my understanding is that you are not required to have completed your teaching certification to be employed as a teacher in the county, or at least you weren’t as recently as a few years ago.

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      • chilimac72

        That is incorrect now. Since there are plenty of qualified teachers looking for jobs, there is no reason to hire teachers that are still working on their certification. The state also “punishes” the schools that do.

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  • Baseball

    Well said 23851.

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  • geographically challenged

    You can’t make everyone happy all of the time. This conversation is an excellent example of this. It seems that with his experience as a high school recruiter for a university, he should be in prime position to assist the student athletes market themselves to colleges for scholarships. This also justifies his placement as academic success specialist. He has higher education experience that the students may trust more than a guidance counselor.

    The community should welcome this man and give him every opportunity to succeed. It would be great to keep him around for a while.

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    • realist

      Nothing against Gillus. Just wondering where the priorities are when there are a lot of other things needed ie school buses, and math and science teachers. When you don’t have the resources to have it all, which is more important teachers that all the the students need or a coach to benefit only the players and the select few who have the talent to receive a schlorship.

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      • 23851

        A great football program can have a positive impact on every student in a school. Moral goes up, support goes up, school academic scores go up. This was a necessary hire and fair contract. He will have a huge impact on more than just the football players. If SHS had a booster program they could help fund the mans salary and people wouldn’t have to have this conversation.

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  • Liberty With Responsibility

    “Indians!” Why, now, we have to change that team name to something more sensitive. Where is Chief Walt when we need him? GET RID of that politically incorrect name!!

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    • mrgoodbar23829

      What are the names that the school should change it too?

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  • realist

    Reading the remainder of the paper, I notice that the school board is commenting about the price of buses being $86,000 each. I imagine that by the time all the nenefits are added we could have purchased a new bus for the cost of a new football coach. Also isn’t there a stipend for weight room instructor. Where are our priorities.

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  • Natalya

    Two classroom teachers or one football coach? Awesome priorities an I’m sure those people fired last year are wondering where the money came from.

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  • MyHometown

    Congratulations Mr. Gillus. It sounds like you are more than qualified for the position. Your scouting and admissions work at the collegiate level should pay immediate dividends to the students at the high school by making sure they are prepared for the next step both athletically and academically. I think you will be able to make an impact far beyond the football field.

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  • simplifyingit

    In order for the players to gain the proper reverence and have to be accountable to their coach as they should, whoever they chose needed to be inside the school. All day, every day he will be watchin and holding his players to a certain level of expectations they are not accustomed to now. That is the best way to do it and i applaud the school board for that. But if he is filling the Academic Success Specialist job for 52k why couldn’t we save the 7k stipend?

    I think the board made a great hire for coach and hope he meets all expectations. Good Luck Mr Gillus!!

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  • mule

    Not a classroom teacher because he probably is not certified to be in the classroom, either from the NTE or Praxis. Just a guess on the admin position……

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  • beachgirl

    Academic Success Specialist??? good grief what the heck is the Guidance Department for?

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    • joewiththedirt

      Not only is he the new coach he is the A.S.S. too!!! think about that for awhile!!!!!!!!!!! LOL

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      • MyHometown

        Is that the best you can do Joe? You trashed the system for what you perceived as a lack of dedication to athletics. It looks as though they went out and made a great hire and all you have is jokes?

        How about some appreciation for what the school has accomplished? They have attracted a high level coach with experience at the high school, college, and pro level(s). They have gone outside the school and brought someone in. Isn’t that what you wanted?

        Congrats to you Mr. Gillus and to all who stand to benefit from your hiring. There is talent there. You just need to get them motivated and rebuild the system. I look forward to seeing what you are able to accomplish.

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      • joewiththedirt

        Your right myhometown, they made a great hire and i wish them all well. But still ts a joke, you know something designed to invoke laughter. You should try it, it makes ya feel good

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  • realist

    Wasn’t the job posted as a coaching position? Instead, we wind up filling another administrative position as part of the package. I fail to see how that is a good deal for the taxpayers of southampton county, but the school board must think so. Easy to spend other peoples money

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  • realist

    And it’s only costing us $60,000/year. I guess the school board will be asking for more tax dollars next year to pay for the position. Maybe the money would be better spent on a classroom teacher.

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    • ivorcp

      I agree!

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    • 23851

      He was hired based on experience and level on the teacher pay scale. It’s not like they hired him as a football coach and paid him $60,000. He is receiving teaching pay because he has teaching experience and then a percentage of his pay which is his football coaching stipend. Some people will complain about everything.

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  • dogman

    I may be wrong but isn’t it every teachers job and goal to help kids graduate.

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  • John Rawls

    Glad to see changes have been made!!! It use to be an honor to say you played football at Southampton and hopefully it will get that way again!!! Best of luck to all that are involved in this change for the better! Go Indians!!!!

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  • itlady

    Gets me excited for the school and the kids….now lets get these sports programs going…not just football..get all these talented kids in this area seen and help with college level play!! Lets not think it stops with high school…..when they go on to play and better themselves at antoher school and say I went to school at southampton county public schools and make us all proud!

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  • 23851

    Good hire Southampton! Good luck Coach Gillus and the young SHS Indians.

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    • joewiththedirt

      I thought you were campaign manager for a different applicant?

      I just rub you wrong huh???

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      • 23851

        I mentioned several names, minus yours of course, that I felt we’re qualified for the job. Gillus’s resume speaks for himself. As I said on the other article and I stand by my previous statements no coach will turn the program around anytime in the next 4 years.

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  • chilimac72

    The C’s and D’s comment is cheesy, but funny. Glad he didn’t mention the turnovers (F).

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