Willie Howard is enjoying his return to the gridiron, as the former Clever athletics director has added Jays head football coach to his job title.
Howard has taken over for Jim Genzler, who coached at Clever the past two years and previously was a six-year assistant coach at Ozark. Howard also will continue to serve as the school's director of operations.
Howard’s background along the sidelines includes tenures as an assistant at Salem, Buffalo, Rolla and Clever.
“It has been three years since I have coached and seven since I have ran a program. Just getting into the rhythm of organizing a practice and planning the day to day activities has been a re-learning process,” Howard said at the end of Clever's team summer camp on Thursday. “The attitude and effort of the players has been unreal, and helped keep my energy level going as well.”
The majority of Howard’s experience as a coach is on the offensive side of the ball. He was the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator at Rolla for five seasons, before being the Bulldogs’ head coach five more years from 2011-2015.
Howard’s W-L record at Rolla was 10-42.
The Bulldogs averaged 37.5 points a game under Howard in 2014
“While we didn't win many games, we were able to break many offensive records,” he said.
Howard was an assistant at Clever under Jeff Stone as the Jays started their program at the junior-varsity level and played their first full season of varsity ball in 2020.
Howard served as interim head coach for Clever while Stone was in quarantine at the start of the 2020 season.
Clever was 0-10 in 2022, 1-9 in 2021 and 2-6 in 2020.
Howard’s hope is Clever can be more varied and explosively offensively and more fundamentally-sound defensively. The Jays averaged 7.5 points a game and gave up an average of 47.9 points a night last season.
“Offensively, we are going to be much more multiple than we have been in the past,” he said. "We are going to do our best to get our athletes into space and be able to utilize their skills. We will be a fast-attacking defense and we have put an emphasis on making tackles."
Howard reports his players are headed in the right direction.
“The attitude and effort has been off the charts,” Howard said. “I told them from day one I am entering this job with my eyes and ears wide open. If you want to start on Friday, you have to earn it and I hope that throughout this process the athletes learn that being a hard worker is an important value.
"Football is a game that makes you earn everything you receive, our opponents are not going to be giving us anything. “Every kid has accepted the challenge,” he added. “They have asked questions, presented their thoughts, and been willing to work hard. I am very thankful for their willingness to show up every day and get better.”
Clever will take part in a jamboree at Hollister on Aug. 18 and open its season with a home date versus Springfield Central on Aug. 25.