Willie Guy made Hayden Fry quiver with excitement in the early 1990's.
"We've got to have him. Got to have him!," Fry would tell reporters as Guy battled to become eligible with the Iowa Hawkeyes.
This was more than 20 years ago, when Guy was a USA Today prep All-American from Memphis, Tenn., and Fry was the head football coach in Iowa City.
It took Guy more than two years to become eligible with the Hawkeyes, but Fry finally got his man. He had a modest career at Iowa -- 26 catches for 381 yards and two touchdowns, along with five punt returns for 27 yards -- but for awhile he was the object of desire for Iowa's head coach and Hawkeye fans everywhere.
Guy never made a college All-America team and never played in the NFL, but he's never lost his love for the sport. Now 41 years old, he's a new assistant coach for the Cedar Rapids Jefferson football team and just as excited about the game as ever.
"I've always wanted to be around the game and I also wanted the opportunity to go into coaching," he said Friday night after practice at Kingston Stadium.
Guy was a prep All-American in 1989 and one of the nation's most sought-after recruits. He was Tennessee's "Mr. Football" in 1989 and picked Iowa over Oklahoma, Georgia, Nebraska and Notre Dame. He played for Iowa in 1994 and '95, ending his career in the 1995 Sun Bowl.
Guy stayed in Iowa after he graduated in 1996. He and his wife, Julie, have three children -- Avery, an 8th grader; Willie, a 6th grader; and Dayten, starting kindergarten -- and he will work as a para-educator at Wilson Middle School this year, where he coaches the track team. He'll also be one of the freshman girls basketball coaches at Jefferson this season.
Guy has worked as an official in football, basketball and baseball and was a high school varsity football ref the past four years. He'll be on the field again this season, only now he'll be signalling in the plays for the J-Hawks.
Guy served as a freshman football coach at Cedar Rapids Washington under Paul James about 10 years ago and jumped at the chance to join Brian Webb's new staff at Jefferson this year.
"It's a great opportunity," Guy remarked. "As Coach Webb said when he came on board, he wouldn't have taken the job if he didn't feel he could succeed."
Webb has stressed discipline, hard work and accountability as Jefferson's new coach. Guy is confident that's the right approach for the J-Hawks, who haven't won a game in more than two years.
Guy said there was a need to "clean up the program" at Jefferson and said the J-Hawks are starting to buy into Webb's approach.
"Jefferson has kind of gotten what they deserved (in recent years) as far as not paying attention to detail," he remarked.
Webb wants all his players -- and the assistant coaches -- to become totally involved with the program.
"There's really no reason for kids to be ineligible anymore," Guy said. "Coach Webb said that's done with here at Jefferson. You can't let kids go through the motions. That's in life, that's in football, that's in the classroom. Be here, be prepared and ready to go."
Guy had to battle academic problems of his own before playing for the Hawkeyes, so he can relate to what some high school players are going through. He faced obstacles as a youngster in Memphis, but managed to overcome them and get a college degree at a Big Ten school.
"Kids grow up in a predicament where it's out of their control, be it homestyle, be it life, be it mom, be it dad. And that's not their choice," he said. "It wasn't their choice in live in that.
"But we say that's not a reason to fail. No matter what my upbringing has been, no matter what neighborhood I live in, that's not a reason to fail and not succeed."
It takes determination and teamwork.
"If a guy is on your side of town and he doesn't have a ride, swing by and pick him up," Guy said. "That builds team camaraderie. The whole family attitude -- I'm going to do what I have to do to get guys to practice. We're all going to be accountable for it."
Guy's daughter, Avery, and son, Willie, are talented young athletes. Guy said he's been approached by parents at other schools who suggested he move into a different school district so his children could compete on stronger teams, but his family has remained in the Jefferson district.
"That never weighed on me as far as coming to Jefferson," he said. "It didn't matter to me about the football program.
"It's not always about wins and losses. It's about having kids learn to compete every single day, night in and night out, on Fridays and Saturdays (game days). That's also in the weight room, as well as the classroom."
Jefferson opens the 2012 football season at Cedar Rapids Prairie this Friday. Guy will be working with the wide receivers and on the sideline, sending in the plays, as the J-Hawks begin their new era.
He's come a long way since Memphis.
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