TSU Grid Coach Looks To Keep Tradition

By Jori Rice
Updated: November 16, 2007

TSUNASHVILLE — This season as Tennessee State University’s head football coach, James Webster has looked to keep the winning tradition for the Tigers. The football program earned back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference Championships in 1998 and 1999.

TSU was also ranked in first place in the NCAA Division 1-AA at the end of the regular season in 1999. “I like winning and that is why I came to TSU,” Webster said.

“I knew about their winning tradition and I wanted to be apart of the program. The campus was beautiful and the admissions seem nice.”

Webster said after the season opener game of 2007 against Alabama A&M when the Tigers lost that the Athletic Director Teresa Phillips didn’t give up on him and the team.

“Our president didn’t give up on us and Phillips didn’t give up on us,” Webster said. “And that’s all I worry about because they’re my boss and they’re leaders. They were very supportive of us and encouraged us, and that’s what matters to me.”

Webster is in his third year as head football coach at TSU. He took over the program in January 2005. After a 2-9 mark that first season, the Tigers went 6-5 in 2006. TSU is 5-5 entering Saturday’s season-ending game against Tennessee-Martin at LP Field.

A win by the the Tigers, who have won two straight, would give them back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the aforementioned 1998-99 campaigns.

“I hate losing so I knew that coming here was the right fit for me,” said Webster, a former assistant head coach and special teams coordinator at the University of North Carolina. He also attended UNC where he played college football in 1968.

Although Webster played baseball, basketball, and ran track, football was his main passion. “I loved to hit people,” Webster said. I am just a very aggressive person.”

Webster started at linebacker for three years for UNC. He was named Most Valuable Defensive Player in the 1971 Gator Bowl. In 1972, Webster received the ACC’s Brian Piccolo Award and the Frank Porter Graham Award as one of the top 12 seniors at UNC.

Webster later received his bachelor’s degree in education before he began his coaching career in 1973. He started working with the junior varsity program under former head coach Bill Dooley at UNC.

“I got into coaching because I like working with young people,” Webster said. “There are not enough of older people willing to work with younger people. I just like inspire young people to do the some good.”

Webster also went to work on the coaching staff at Florida in 1974-75. He then worked with Kansas in 1975-78 and Colorado 1978-81. Webster went to Northwestern and worked on the defensive end in 1982-84.

After Northwestern he went to Wake Forest in 1988-93. Webster has also coached linebackers at Dartmouth 1993-95. During the 1995 season, he also worked with professional football teams.

Webster won a minority coaching fellowship with the Pittsburgh Steelers and four years after he won another with the St. Louis Rams.

“I had an internship working for the Pittsburgh and St. Louis teams and it was a good experience for me,” Webster said. “It gave me the advantage to help the college player see what the pros look for in a player.”

In 2001, Webster returned to UNC and helped Carolina lead the ACC in defense as the Tar Heels were ranked 15th in the nation. Julius Peppers, a number two overall draft pick in the 2002 NFL draft, was coached by Webster during the 2001 season.

Peppers was drafted by the Carolina Panthers. “He’s the most talented player I ever coached,” Webster said. “When you coach a player like him you have to make sure he is fundamental sound.”

Webster recruits players that have character and are good students that want to receive a college degree. “I looked to see if the player is disciplined, willing to work hard, and then I look to see if his athletic and has the ability to play at the college level.”

When it came to the decision to pick the new head football coach for TSU in 2005, AD Phillips had a tough situation at her hands.

“This was a challenging search when we looked for candidates to head our football program here at TSU,” Phillips said. “We wanted to make sure that we got the best total package. Coach Webster defines the total package-leadership, experience and passion.”

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