The Panther Press

Saying Goodbye to Coach Billings

Off the FieldGreg Higgins
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I wanted to let you know that I resigned today.

That's the text message I received at 10:01 Tuesday morning from coach Billings. My response was the same as most people when they received the news. I was shocked and confused to say the least. Was this a joke? Was this a ill-timed prank?

As the conversation continued through text message I realized this wasn't a joke or a prank. Coach Billings was leaving North Lamar. He was leaving to go back and coach at the college level.

As I broke the news on Social Media, I sat there in shock. Even though he had only been here for two years Coach Billings had impacted many lives. This included mine.

The Man

The first time I met him was at a softball game two years ago. It was his first week on the job at North Lamar and I talked to him for a few minutes at the game. I tried to impress him with my talk about football film watching. I tried making myself sound smart to this man. A man who has 30 years of coaching experience. I realized how foolish that was now, but at the time I was trying my hardest.

As I would learn over time this didn't impress him. Not that he didn't care but he wasn't impressed with people and what they said. Rather he was impressed with actions and how people lived their lives.

It was last April when North Lamar had a softball game in Texarkana against Pleasant Grove that I would learn even more. It was a make-up game on a Saturday and coach called me and asked if I wanted to ride with him to the game. I took him on the offer. For that afternoon, him and I rode and talked and got to know each other. I asked him lots of questions and he answered everyone of them.

I learned about his coaching career. I learned about the time he coached Randy Moss. I learned about the national championships and the game routines they have in college. He told me about his family and the trials he's had to endure through life. It's a four hour look into the life of a man that I had the upmost respect for.

This wasn't the only time I went to a game with him. I was fortunate enough to travel to Waco and watch the Baylor Bears take on the Rice Owls. I had never been to a college football game before and it was quite the experience to watch it with the man who had coached for so long at the college level.

This man lived football. He knew the game inside and out. He was a very passionate man. However football isn't his only passion. He's extremely passionate about family. Him and his wife could be seen at the different sporting events around North Lamar. He would often take weekend trips to visit his son or his daughter as well.

The School

As news broke about the resignation, my phone started going off. Text messages, phone calls, tweets. Everyone of them in response to my tweet that coach Billings was taking a position at Southern Mississippi. They were just as confused and shocked as I was.

The school will now begin the process of trying to find a new football coach and athletic director. This is a process that happened two years ago when coach Tommy Felty stepped down.

"I tried to bring a fresh excitement to the program. I feel like we got it going in the right direction." - Tim Billings

Coach Billings tried to do everything he can for the kids at North Lamar. The money raised during the annual fundraiser was used to modernize the football facility. Improvements were also made to the weight room. He wanted the kids to enjoy coming to work out.

In his two years as the head coach of the Panthers, coach Billings and his staff went 11-9. Both seasons ended against the Paris High Wildcats. They were games in which North Lamar would have made the playoffs if they had won the game.

For so many years, North Lamar ran the ball on 90% of their plays. Billings allowed coach Martin Bryant to open it up and spread the offense. Versache Buchanan was a dual threat quarterback that caused a lot of problems for defenses.

"If they get the right guy in there, this could be great." - Tim Billings

The Students

Obviously for some students, this impacts more than others. People like Trey Scudder, Julique Franklin and Versache are seniors and graduate this year.

"He taught me if you want something you have to put the work in that is required. I'm glad to have enjoyed him for my last two years and I'm appreciative of everything he's done for the program." - Trey Scudder

However, there are others like Ryder Bryant, Jake Stewart and Javon Franklin that are juniors and will not have coach Billings for their senior year.

"I was really hoping for him to still be here through my senior year." - Ryder Bryant

These students are the only ones wishing he would be here for their senior year. Parents also wishing he would be here. This shows the value of relationships in sports. Although he was only here for two years, coach Billings is already missed.

The relationships he forged while at North Lamar will last for a long time. I know it will for me. We had a unique relationship in that I would go to the field house and watch game film with the coaches on Saturday mornings. Most of the time he would ask me for my stats and use them.

I had no problem asking what in the world he was thinking on a certain play call or a certain situation. He had no problem telling me why they did that. He was this way with many of the athletes as well. He had no problem treating them like a person and getting to know them.

He and I established a good relationship from day one, and I'm really gonna miss him as a coach and a friend." - Jake Stewart

Although they came from one individual, it's pretty safe to say this statement echoes the thoughts and feelings of many people at North Lamar and the community.

When asked what one thing he has learned at North Lamar that will help him at the next level coach Billings simply responded, "to respect all student athletes and not just the really gifted ones."

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