One can dream but dreams are never as easy as they may seem. Hard work is the cornerstone of every dream, of every aspect of our lives. Win or lose.
“I’m going to show my players how to work,” first-year Willcox football coach Alonzo Highsmith, Jr. told me. “But I’m not going to tell them good things will happen on the field if you just work hard. There are no guarantees like that in life. No, it may not happen for you on the field, but, if you work hard, then other good things might happen for you in your life.”
With only 11 wins since 2012, the Cowboys have been waiting for someone to step up to help return the program to its glory days. Why not Willcox?
The grandson and son of former NFL standouts, Highsmith was looking for a way to help make his own dream of coaching come true. He followed the path set by his family and he dressed up for the Dolphins, Chiefs and Redskins but it all started at Phoenix College.
“I didn’t have the grades to go to a D-I school,” Highsmith said in all candor. “It broke my heart and I took a semester off after high school.”
His father, Alonzo Highsmith, Sr., was the Florida Defensive Player of the Year in high school before transitioning to a punishing fullback for the University of Miami but Highsmith, Jr. stayed on the defensive side of the ball and he needed one break to help get him back on track.
“I had a friend in Arizona who told me about Phoenix College,” Highsmith said. “I went out and gave it a shot and I earned a scholarship to play for Arkansas.”
Highsmith was named the NJCAA Co-Defensive Player of the Year at Phoenix College and he earned WSFL Defensive Player of the Year honors. It all led to a spot with Arkansas and a trip to the NFL but Highsmith felt it was time to come back to the state that gave him a chance.
“I felt it was time to transition and pursue my goal of becoming a coach and I searched the data base for Arizona and I stumbled across the Willcox job,” Highsmith added.
Highsmith tells me they are in week two of hard work in Willcox. He also has all the guidance on how to deal with parents, coaches and players one can expect with a grandfather who spent over 20 years coaching college, professional football and high school in places such as Miami, Texas and Alabama.
“We have discussed pretty much everything there is to discuss about football,” Highsmith said. “They are excited for me and they told me they will be there for me if I need them. They have seen it all.”
Highsmith is not too concerned about players filling specific positions on his roster. That will come. As mentioned, he is more concerned about the work that it takes before one can get there.
“We can analyze the four years of struggle from coaching, players and support but I don’t want the pressure of the season to be put on my players right now,” Highsmith added.
“I need them to give me three sets of eight right now. I need them to give me the best they have. Come July, we will see who shows up and we will take it from there.”
I hope Willcox has enough helmets…