Coaching ’em up

Gilroy wide receiver coach Will Lawrence watches Jordan Mitchell

Rich Hammond has assembled a coaching staff that is large enough
to form it’s own football team. They would have to play both ways,
and would likely find themselves in mismatches at several
positions, but the 11-man crew that prepares Gilroy High football
on a weekly basis is a cohesive unit that relies on personal
responsibility to achieve the ultimate prize.
GILROY – Rich Hammond has assembled a coaching staff that is large enough to form it’s own football team. They would have to play both ways, and would likely find themselves in mismatches at several positions, but the 11-man crew that prepares Gilroy High football on a weekly basis is a cohesive unit that relies on personal responsibility to achieve the ultimate prize.

“My big philosophy is if you want people to work hard, you have to give them some autonomy because it’s going to motivate them to bust their tails for you and get things right,” said Hammond, Gilroy’s third-year head coach. “And if people are busting their tails for you, you have a better chance to succeed.”

Each assistant focuses on a specific position, with Hammond running the offense and first-year coordinator Chris Vasseur orchestrating the defense. While each coach has a day job that doesn’t revolve around football, their down time certainly does. It’s a passion for the game that has five GHS graduates (Greg Garcia, Willie Gamboa, Will Lawrence, Joffre Longoria and Tim Lemos) and six Gilroy transplants (Hammond, Vasseur, Mark Carrick, Joey Costa, Craig Martin and Julio Villalobos) coming together to mold one of the most exciting shows on turf in the Central Coast Section.

Martin serves as the assistant head coach while working with receivers/tight ends on the right side of the field. He also puts together film and the wristbands every player on offense wears.

“I basically do all the things Hammond doesn’t want to do,” Martin jokes.

The truth, though, is there really isn’t anything anyone on the staff is unwilling to help out with. It’s a young man’s game that keeps some coaches, such as outside linebackers coach Joey Costa, feeling young.

“It’s fun to be a part of something that is a success,” said Costa, who continued to coach this season after his son graduated in June. “And when you get older, it’s kind of an outlet. You get out and leave your problems at work and have some fun for a couple hours.”

One coach that shares those sentiments but doesn’t crack as many smiles in practice as Costa is defensive line coach Tim Lemos, who worked with the juniors and seniors on this season’s team as head coach of the freshman squad two years ago.

“We focus on discipline mostly,” Lemos said. “I’m hard on them, but more at an intellectual level. I’m not drilling them physically.”

Lemos adds, “This is kind of my passion. I like doing this kind of stuff.”

Another coach whose passion has never been questioned is Longoria, who took over the offensive line duties after Steven Loe found a job doing strength and conditioning work with San Jose State.

“Oh, [Longoria] definitely takes it more personal,” Hammond said. “He’s born and raised in Gilroy. He lives and dies Gilroy football and makes a tremendous commitment because of that.”

Like Longoria, two former Mustang standouts who are still a part of the football family and ready to suit up if needed are Gamboa and Lawrence.

“They always joke with me and Will that we should suit up at halftime,” Gamboa said.

Gamboa, an inside linebackers coach, and Lawrence, a left-side receivers coach, were All-Monterey Bay League selections as seniors. The pair, along with Longoria, still play ball as part of the Central Coast Section Barnstormers semi-pro football team.

Garcia coaches the Barnstormers and serves as an associate head coach to the Mustangs after running the GHS defense last year.

Similar to Garcia and Longoria, Gamboa and Lawrence now focus on passing down the things they learned while playing for Gilroy.

“Its fun,” Gamboa said. “I just like coaching kids and letting them know what I learned in past years of football … just to be smart and be really aggressive.”

Lawrence has had a big hand in forming receiver Dante Fullard into Gilroy’s biggest threat on offense.

“After he was done lifting (in the summer), I would work on footwork and catching the ball with him,” Lawrence said. “We have a good relationship. We just joke around a lot.”

The offense has two other helpers who have invaluable experience – Mark Carrick as quarterbacks coach and Julio Villalobos as running backs/special teams coach. Carrick teaches a digital design and animation class at GHS, while Villalobos is a counselor, helping to make sure every player is up to date on the administrative side.

Both have been the top dog of a program before – Carrick with GHS in the late 90s and Villalobos with Pajaro Valley.

“Having been head coaches, they understand what comes along with the job and they can help pick up the slack,” Hammond said. “It really helps having them support me, for sure.”

The newest addition to the staff, Vasseur, is one coach that has had plenty of help from assistants, but has the most freedom. With Hammond focused primarily on the offense, Vasseur has sole discretion over the defensive calls.

“I can’t believe that he’s done that, that he’s been so hands off,” said Vasseur, who worked under SJSU assistant head coach Keith Burns last year. “[Hammond] has basically let me be the head coach of the defense … but when we’re together, he’s the head chief.”

Typical of Hammond, there’s always a method to the madness.

“I try to step aside and believe in them and let them coach players, just like we believe in the players and try to let them do their jobs,” Hammond said.

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