HAMPTON, VA (WTKR)- Hampton High School football is in some uncharted territory, taking the field for preseason camp with a new head coach for the first time in more than a half-century.
Of course, Woodrow Wilson isn't new to the Crabber program, just the big chair.
"It's a little different," Wilson said. "You're the man in charge."
"It's new, but it's not really new because he was already here before," senior running back and linebacker Raykwon Smith added. "It's kind of the same."
Wilson was named the head coach at Hampton during the off-season, replacing a legend in Mike Smith. Smith stepped down as the Crabbers' lead man after the 2021 campaign, putting the lid on a 51-year career that saw him amass 506 victories, the third-most all-time in the country. The Crabbers also won 12 state championships on his watch. Wilson played for Smith at Hampton in the 1970's and was by his side as an assistant for the better part of two decades.
"What I try to basically do is walk in my footsteps, do things my way, but incorporate some of the things that I learned from Coach Smith," the new head coach pointed out. "I'm not going to try to do everything to implement what he [did]. I'm going to just try to be my own person and I think I'll be OK."
You may see the Crabbers play a little bit more aggressively under Wilson's guidance, something he says will be a difference from years past. His approach to leading, however, will be similar to that of his predecessor. The new head coach puts getting the most out of his players squarely on his shoulders.
"If [Coach Smith] felt like a play was under a rock, he would turn that rock over to get that play," Wilson said. "I'm going to do my part because I think I let the kids down if I don't do my part to help them prepare to play up to their capability."
Plenty of challenges await in year one of Wilson's era. The head coach noted that Hampton does not have any starters returning from the 2021 campaign, giving a new group of Crabbers the opportunity to take center stage and step up.
"We're doubted right now, but we're just going to let our game speak for itself," Smith said of the players' mentality. "It ain't really too much pressure. We're just going to take it one day at a time and just trust the process."
"To have success, it's not the will to win, it's the will to prepare to win," noted Wilson. "We're going to teach them."
Wilson has his own legacy in the program as a player and an assistant. Now he gets to add to it as the head coach. That all starts with victory number one, which will come in due time.
"We're going to go into the game, give it everything we've got and if we do that, I'll be satisfied, whether we win or lose," he said.
Hampton opens its season on August 27 when the Crabbers host Gloucester at Darling Stadium.