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“How’s the reception?”
That’s the first question asked by North Lamar’s new athletic director and head football coach when I called him. I could hear the car noise in the background and knew he was driving. As a matter of fact, he was driving from Memphis to Paris and he wanted to make sure he wasn’t in a low spot. After the introductions, I wanted to ask him some questions and get to know the person who had accepted this position.
Timothy A. Billings, the new head football coach and athletic director for the North Lamar Panthers, is originally from the Honey Grove area. He also coached the Prairiland Patriots in the early 80′s. One of his line coaches back then was Bill Scudder, whose son, Scott, is an assistant football coach at North Lamar.
“I was cleaning up some stuff the other day and found a Scott Scudder rookie baseball card I didn’t know I had,” he jokes. He laughed when I suggested he should seek an autograph.
I asked him the question I keep receiving from people in the area: Why would a successful college coach want to come back to the high school level?
“Timing mainly,” he said. “I’ve coached at the college level for 30 years, and I’ve moved 11 different times during those years. My wife and I have been praying for a place to open up that we could hopefully settle down and think about life after retirement – which I hope doesn’t happen for a long time.”
With both kids grown and out of the house, Billings and his wife had Northeast Texas as a possible relocation spot because of family in the area. With Coach Tommy Felty retiring, Billings decided to put his name in the pot for the job.
Still not sure when the actual starting date is going to be, Billings was on his way to Paris to finalize things with Superintendent James Dawson and try to learn more about the town and job. His first course of action, he said, is to meet with the coaches and staff and get to know everyone.
“I want to make sure we’re all on the same page as a group,” he responded concerning whether there would be a huge transition from college back to high school.
Being a college coach, Billings eats, sleeps and breathes football, at times putting in 15-hour days for seven days a week. Between studying film, working on schemes and recruiting, Billings was constantly working on football.
“Nobody was allowed to have a phone at the dinner table except for dad,” he jokes. “I was constantly answering phone calls from recruits so I had to be prepared. … I hope nobody gets scared by my work ethic. It’s all I know how to do.”
Billings has kept up with the North Lamar school program a little over the years, but hasn’t been in tune with all the ins and outs of what’s going on. He likes it that way, though.
“I’d rather get in there and figure it out on my own,” he says. “I don’t want a lot of people trying to tell me what we have or what we don’t have.”
Obviously, with that much work, there’s not a lot of time for relaxing and down time, but he said he likes to play golf and spend time with the family.
“Some nights, my wife and I would go out to the course and try to get nine holes in before the sun would go down,” he said.
Our conversation is just about to wrap up and by now I’ve realized he is passionate about everything he talks about. We talked about football, golf and family, and he showed the same passion and zeal for all three. With some national championships under his belt, he has every right to be cocky and arrogant, but he was extremely down-to-earth and humble.
“Have a blessed day,” he said right before hanging up the phone.
I hung up the phone and sat for a minute reflecting on what we just talked about. I looked at the calendar and started counting down the days until we play football again.
By Greg Higgins, eParisExtra