As a leader on the offensive line for Jonesboro-Hodge High School from 1986-89 Jay Watson helped the Tigers win three straight state championships and reach the semi-finals in another. Now he hopes to lead another group of Tigers to the same hallowed ground.
Only this time it will be as head coach of Winnfield where this past Friday he was named head football coach and athletic director. The appointment was a “dream-come-true” for Watson who has wanted to be in this position ever since he was a player.
“I have wanted this for a long time and am very thankful to finally be in this position,” said Watson in an interview with the Jackson Parish Journal. “I can’t wait to get started.”
While this is Watson’s first opportunity to be a head coach and athletic director it is during his second stint at Winnfield that he has gotten the chance. As soon as he graduated from Northwestern State University where he played for two years he became an assistant at Winnfield where he stayed from 1997-2005. For six of those years he served as defensive coordinator.
“Not only am I very glad to get the chance to be a head coach it makes it even more special that I will be coaching here,” added Watson. “I have a long history here with many great memories.”
While reminiscing on his coaching journey over the past twenty some odd years (WHS 1997-2005, JHHS 2006-09, West Ouachita (2010-16), Ruston Jr. High (2017-18) and at Winnfield again last year Watson made it a point to mention several people that were so very important in him being where he is today.
“First and foremost I want to start with Joey Pender,” reflected Watson. “I am the coach I am today because of him. He has been a mentor of mine since I was a player and I only hope to be the kind of coach that he was. He taught a player how to compete in football but in life as well.”
“I also am thankful for my coaching staff while I was playing for Jonesboro-Hodge. I can’t tell you how fortunate I was to have coaches like Pender, Walter Causey, Jimmie Davis, Ted Reeves and Roy Barlow, “ said Watson. “It was a who’s who among great men who dedicated their lives to helping their players win in everything they did as a high schooler and as an adult. I hope I will make them proud.”
With his wife Rachael (Ponder), who is the nursing coordinator at the Jackson Parish Correctional Center and the children: Avery (10), Jayse (9) and Landrie (4) Jackson Parish is still is home and Watson says he always still pulls for JHHS and that will continue – except one weekend each season.
It is a guarantee that among the many friends he has from his playing and coaching days at Jonesboro-Hodge they will do the same for Watson – except for that same weekend.