SEMO FB coaches to get 'mind-blowing' opportunity with NFL

Southeast Missouri State defensive line coach Jerone Williams speaks with his players during a game at Jacksonville State last season in Jacksonville, Alabama.
Tom Davis ~

It’s the dream of every college football player to one day make it onto an NFL field, and it is the same for a college coach wanting to make it into an NFL meeting room.

For a pair of Southeast Missouri State assistant coaches, that dream has been realized.

Redhawk defensive backs coach Ray Smith and defensive line coach Jerone Williams have each been chosen out of hundreds of applicants to participate in the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship program.

The program allows minority coaches the opportunity to spend three weeks working alongside NFL coaches to enhance their knowledge and to grow their professional network.

“I’ve been trying to get one of these internships for the last 14 years,” Smith said.

Smith was so startled when the Cleveland Browns called him Monday to let him know that he had been selected, he wasn’t positive that the call was legitimate.

“For it to have finally happen,” Smith said, “it is mind-blowing.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the program is being held in a virtual fashion this summer, so Smith and Williams will both remain in their offices at the Rosengarten Athletic Complex, while they are working with the NFL teams.

Smith was selected by Cleveland, while Williams will work with coaches from the Los Angeles Rams.

“I have no idea how it happened,” Williams said of his selection. “It’s a blessing.”

The two coaches will perform duties each day for Southeast until lunchtime and then Smith said they’ll dive right into virtual meetings with their NFL teams.

“There’s no lunch break,” Smith said, “and then go work for the Browns for the rest of the day.”

The coaches will be game planning, breaking down film, installing playbooks, and participating in special teams, position, and staff meetings.

“I’m going to be a sponge,” Smith said.

This particular opportunity is unique for Smith and Williams, as neither has ever done anything quite like this, but learning from other coaches and networking isn’t new to either coach.

“Your network is your net worth,” Smith said of his philosophy that he has followed throughout his career.

Both coaches have attended clinics, developed relationships with other coaches, and according to Williams, just “called guys.”

Williams spends a lot of time in the off-season on the phone picking the brains of coaches at all levels.

“I’ll just call people and say ‘Hey, what do you think of this,’” Williams explained.

Seventh-year Southeast coach Tom Matukewicz said he is proud of the two coaches for being selected for this opportunity.

"Some people may not realize just how hard it is to get a position like this," Matukewicz said. “It says a lot about Ray and Jerone that the NFL will come to SEMO and give an opportunity of a lifetime to two of our coaches.”

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