By Matt Noonan
Head Coach Aaron Kelton is eager to begin his second season with the Williams College football team this fall and certainly, he hopes to build off last season’s success, which saw his squad finish with a perfect record, [8-0] in the NESCAC, (New England Small College Athletic Conference). Kelton, who was the first football coach at Williams to guide a team to a perfect record in his rookie year was awarded the NESCAC Coach of the Year Award, as well as appeared Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” on December 27, 2010.
According to the Williams College sports informational department, Kelton is also the first African American head coach in the NESCAC and is believed to be the first African American head coach to debut with a perfect year in his first season.
Here’s our conversation with Coach Kelton, enjoy.
What are some things you learned or developed as an assistant football coach at Wellesley or Wayland high school?
“It’s just coaching in general. We get [players] from all different skill levels and skill sets that [are] from all over the country, so you have to be a good teacher. I think that’s the first thing I learned in coaching is how to be a good teacher.”
Throughout your 19-year journey in college football as a defensive coordinator and defensive backs coordinator, who have been the most influential co-workers, players, coaches or staff members that have helped you improve or become a better coach?
“As a player or young coach, Andy Levin at Wellesley and the success that we had there with him, certainly was an influence. Mike Delong at Springfield was my college coach and is still a mentor to me today is another one. I’ve had a number of different experiences where I’ve had opportunities [such as working for] Norris Wilson at Columbia [University] who’s a friend and a mentor as well and then my experiences at the professional level with Tony Dungy and Jack Del Rio and Ken Whisenhunt and those guys are all influences [and have] taught me to be a better professional and understand how this business works.”
Why Williams College? What’s so special about this well-recognized institution? Also, can you describe the feeling of being named the head coach of the Ephs football team?
“Williams is a great place, a lot of tradition. When I thought about getting a head coaching job, I wanted to be at a place where I thought that I could be successful and continue to build on the traditions and the things that are apart of that culture and Williams was a great fit [because] it allowed me an opportunity to get back to New England and coach some great young men who did a tremendous job for us last year. Some other things about, “why Williams,” you play in the ‘Biggest Little Game’ in America against Amherst College and that’s a great game to be apart of and then the other thing is the importance of the academic excellence that’s here at Williams is certainly something I’m very interested in and continue to push on my guys. It’s those kind of things all wrapped up into one, as well as a really great opportunity to become a head coach.”
You inherited a squad that finished three seasons in a row at [6-2]. How did you turn things around so quickly and finish with a perfect record last year?
“Well certainly, Mike [Whalen] did a great job and we had good players here [and] I still do have a lot of really good players and had a really good recruiting year this year. What it was for us was changing the culture and beliefs system and getting them to go the extra step. It wasn’t good enough just to finish the play, but you want them to finish the play the right way, doing it fast [and] being physical. Our ability to change the culture a little bit and when we walked in and took this job, the thing we talked about was winning all the games. We play [them] to win [them]. We don’t play them to be close and so we emphasized not only winning the game, but winning the day at practice, winning the day in the classroom [and] being good citizens, all those different things that helped to change the culture and certainly led us to an undefeated season last year.”
What was the atmosphere or mood like when you walked into your first team meeting and practice?
“During the interview process, I had an opportunity to meet the team and I was really excited to meet them and to talk about my philosophy and during our first meeting, as a team, our first team meeting, we just were really excited about the summertime and what was to come and that energy [has] stayed in our program [and] we try to make sure that it’s there every day. One thing that we emphasize in our program is we do this and we want to have fun at doing it. We make sure that we keep the energy level high and have fun while we do it.
After you earned your first win, as the head coach of Williams College last September against Bowdoin College, what was going through your mind? How happy or elated were you with the victory?
In terms of getting the first win [against] Bowdoin, it certainly is a special, special place for me because it’s my first win, as a college head football coach and certainly, the guys really worked their tail off to see that could happen. Again, we didn’t over emphasize anything other than let’s go out and play our best and win the football game and that’s how we go about it. That’ll be the same approach, as we go into it this year and it certainly is a memorable moment for me. The players were gracious enough to give me a game ball and that made me feel really special.”
Last season, you and members of your team were recognized locally and nationally, so what exactly does that mean to you, as well as the college and football program?
“All the accomplishments that our team gets, [it shows] how great my staff is and the great people that we have here at Williams, [who are] supporting our program and the great players that we have [too]. Certainly, our players are recognized for their great things on the football field, but also there are so many untold stories that go on [and] what they do every day in terms of their community service or just being a Williams’ student. Any accolade or coaches gets is well deserved, but also it’s an honor just to be able to be apart of that recognition and to lead this program.”
What are some overall goals or objectives that you hope to accomplish this season? Also, how do you replace the class of 2011?
“We’ve got a talented group and we talk about team goals [and] certainly our team goal is to go out and win each game and take it one by one. Our goal each and every year [is to win a] NESCAC football championship, that’s what we want to be able to achieve. Certainly, winning that last game of the year is extremely important for us.”
What is the biggest game this year that you’re looking forward to coaching?
“In our league, every game is important. The first one is the most important for us because we’re on the road this year [at Bowdoin] and we have to get off to a great start, but the other piece of that is that we only get eight contest, so you’ve got to be good in all of them. You don’t get enough of them.”
What’s it like being apart of the oldest college rivalry in the country with Amherst College?
“Being apart of the rivalry, the oldest rivalry is an awesome feeling. The place is even more electric than it is at any other time and we get letters and emails and things from miles around talking about [fans] experiences at the game. I had someone from the class of 1942 write me a letter last year. It runs so deep in this area and throughout New England and certainly to be apart of that is a special thing and we certainly are so privilege to be apart of that and appreciate that so much.”