Jimmerson set to lead Booker T. Washington Football

Wednesday, August 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Upgrading off-season program is job one for former Jenks assistant

By Sean Mossman, kotv.com

It’s a mild Thursday evening on Union High School’s Tuttle Field. Hundreds of high school boys are working up a summer sweat on the stadium turf. What’s happening here is a high school football phenomenon of the last decade called a passing league.

High school football players get together with their teammates and play all-pass games of touch football. The idea is to work on passing offenses and defenses during the off-season without having an actual practice. It’s grown in popularity over the past few years, because it helps keep kids in shape during the summer.

On this particular Thursday the sun is setting behind the home stands. Booker T. Washington’s left cornerback looks a little out of place standing in the shadow created by those stands. Normally, Shawn Chambers is the Hornets starting tailback, but right now he’s consistently getting beaten across the middle of the field by a thin, sophomore wideout from Oologah. Chambers has three straight slant patterns in a row caught right in front of him.

Suddenly, a man pulls him aside and gives him a mild, thirty-second lecture on the merits of bump-and-run coverage. After a quick pat on the behind, Chambers is back on the left corner and that same receiver from Oologah spends the rest of the night hugging the sidelines on fade routes. He won’t see another pass come his way until next week.

This is one example of the way new Booker T. Washington Hornets head football coach Antoine Jimmerson has been getting results for years. He prefers to teach instead of yell at players.

“When he needs to get on you, he’ll get on you,” said Chambers, “Usually when he talks to you it’s almost like a friend.”

Now the challenge set before Jimmerson is to retain that patient style while he tries to return the Hornets program back to prominence.

The Pedigree

Ask an average person to find Jefferson, Texas on a map and they’d surely have to use the legend. Mention the town to a Texas high school football fan and they’ll likely talk for hours about district titles and college athletes that the program has produced. Jimmerson grew up in this environment. By the time he was a senior linebacker at Jefferson High School, it was his turn as to lead the team on the next run to glory. When the 1986 season was over, the team had a perfect season and he had a state championship ring on his finger.

Jimmerson was considered one of the top 50 recruits in Texas when he signed to play for the University of Tulsa. His four years in playing for the Golden Hurricane produced one of the best runs of football success the Tulsa team has seen in the last twenty years. Berths in the Freedom and Independence Bowls were among the highlights.

One of his college teammates, Wes McCalip, also served as a fellow assistant coach with Jimmerson for the past six years. “He’s always just been a real hard worker, at school or in the weight room,” said Jenks offensive coordinator McCalip, who was TU's offensive guard from 1987-91. “There were bigger linebackers, but he was real strong and real quick.”

After a four strong playing years at Tulsa, Jimmerson took a job as junior high assistant coach with Jenks. Four years of teaching the most basic skills to boys who would become high school all-Americans led to a promotion to the high school staff. During his tenure as a defensive assistant, Jenks fans saw a near unprecedented run of championship football titles in Oklahoma as the coach added five more state title rings to his collection.

Jimmerson says it was more than just those Friday nights on the sidelines that prepared him for his new job as head coach. “A lot of people think it just happens on game night," he explained. "At Jenks, we learned how to prepare all year long for winning games. We sold our kids on more than just playing. The running and lifting, the technique, the film study -- we emphasized the finer points of playing football.”

Jimmerson noted it’s the principle of year- round commitment that he brings to his first head coaching job at Booker T. Washington High School.

The Process

Leotis Robinson had three up-and-down years as the Hornets head coach. Last year’s 5-6 season followed on the heels of a successful 10-2 campaign in 1998. It was in the end, probably the inconsistency that some say led to his demise.

When Robinson was moved out as head coach, the resumes quickly piled up as coaches from around the region quickly jumped at the chance to lead the Hornets. All of that tradition as well as the wealth of athletic talent, might help to make a star out of a new coach in no time.

Of the fourteen coaches who interviewed for the job, Jimmerson was one of two finalists with no head coaching experience. The other coach in contention was a college assistant.

Jimmerson hadn’t even logged time as a coordinator at the high school level, so many eyebrows were raised when he was named head coach last March. “Those people in that area (north Tulsa) knew me," he explained. "I went to church up there with a lot of the Hornets boosters and supporters. They asked me two years ago to become an assistant at the school. I didn’t go there then, because it didn’t seem right to leave a program that was winning state championships to become an assistant somewhere else,” he noted.

McCalip says he heard the criticisms of Jimmerson’s hiring just like everyone else. He explained that those comments were unwarranted and that his ex-teammate was the perfect fit for the job. “He’s just a people person," McCalip said. "He’s real good in the community and with the players and parents. One of the things he does well is working with the support staff -- the janitors, secretaries and the other folks whose cooperation you need to do your job right,” he explained.

When Jimmerson first heard the complaints about his relative lack of experience, he pointed to a situation he knew all too well. In 1992, Jenks was looking for a new coach to take over its tradition-laden football program. It was just assumed that a high-profile head coach would come in and keep the Trojan’s ball rolling.

When assistant coach Alan Trimble was tabbed as the next leader of the Jenks program, the cries were even louder than the ones heard when Jimmerson took over Booker T. Five gold balls later, few would argue with the hiring of Trimble. Jimmerson says the only way to quiet his critics is with the same type of success. “Winning ball games will be the key to stopping all the criticism,” he said.

The Plan

“At Wahington, I know I’m going to have the athletes, but if we don’t build on that all year long we’ll continue to have that inconsistency of losing seasons following winning ones,” Jimmerson said.

By building all year long, Jimmerson says this was the way he was taught how to play football at Jefferson and at Tulsa. He brought to Jenks the idea of strenuous off-season regime. He says he wants his kids to be thinking about football throughout the year. So far, his players have seen the difference in their summer schedules.

“Passing leagues -- we’d never even heard of that, Chamners said of of those Thursday night’s at Union High School "We didn’t even know these existed. We have a tough weightlifting program. We have a great running program. This summer is totally a different experience."

Jimmerson says he believes those off-season workout programs benefit all of his players. However, his experience at Jenks has proved the summer program was very important for players who didn’t have the most natural talent. When Fridays rolled around, teams who did the most work during the summer would often out perform squads with more college-bound athletes.

“His strengths are with the guys who might not be the best athletes in the world,” said McCalip. “At the same time, he knows how to let the great players play and not try to over-coach them.”

As for his expectations for this year, Jimmerson doesn’t seem to know how to lose. He says he wants to press teams with his defense and send more players than the other team can block. He says he wants to add structure to an offense that often relies on the athletic ability of a great quarterback to make positive yards. Most of all, he says he wants to win. And he thinks it can happen right away.

“I expect an immediate turnaround," Jimmerson said. "With these kids it’s all attitude. My goal is toi be undefeated and win a state championship.”

“He’s not going in there looking to have a rebuilding season,” added former teammate McCalip. “In golf terms, he’s not going up there to lag a putt. He’s looking to knock it in. He thinks he can win a championship right away.”

For more on the Booker T. Washington football program and their new head coach check out our Photo Gallery.

Sean Mossman is a writer-producer for KOTV.com. His specialty is Green Country sports. Questions, comments or story ideas should be directed to smossman@kotv.com. Please include name and phone number with story ideas.