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Five Questions with Johnny Williams, Executive Director of the Camellia Bowl

Five Questions with Johnny Williams, Executive Director of the Camellia Bowl

Johnny Williams is going to be a busy man this holiday season. Not only are there decorations to set up, presents to buy and meals to prepare, Williams will be working more Christmas week than Santa Claus.

Williams is the executive director of the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala., and if that is not enough work, he has the added responsibility of administering the Montgomery Bowl which replaces the inaugural Fenway Bowl just for this season.

The Rebel Walk recently sat down with the former defensive guru and college administrator for Five Questions.

THE REBEL WALK: Before you transitioned into becoming an administrator, you were a highly-successful defensive coordinator. In your career, your defenses beat a Hal Mumme/Mike Leach team when they were at Valdosta State and Steve McNair at Alcorn State. If you were a defensive coordinator today, how would you stop, or at least slow down, offenses like Lane Kiffin has at Ole Miss or Leach at Mississippi State.

Johnny Williams: I would do the same thing today that I did then, you always have to keep pressure on the quarterback. If you give a quarterback enough time in the pocket, no matter what level he will beat you every time. I would always rush at least four but even five or six at times.

TRW: You are the executive director of the Montgomery Bowl and the Camillia Bowl this season and they will be played two days apart. What are the challenges in juggling the responsibilities of running two bowls at essentially the same time?

JW: During a normal year, we have extra events throughout the week for both teams, however, due to COVID, we are not allowed to have any ancillary bowl week events. So, this actually makes things easier on us because we’re just running two games, not two full bowls. It would be impossible to run two bowls at the same time under normal circumstances.

TRW: The NCAA has ruled a team does not have to have a winning record to participate in a bowl game this season. How has this changed the selection process for the bowls?

JW: We’re still wanting teams that have had a successful season but all bowls this year are trying to pick teams that are more regional to Montgomery so they can drive instead of fly.

TRW: People around the country may not realize the historical significance of Montgomery. Apart from the game itself, how does the exposure of a bowl game – in fact two this season – benefit the city?

JW: Because we are the Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, it has become a worldwide destination for people to travel here to learn of Montgomery’s rich history. In fact, the Camellia Bowl’s tagline is “History Happens Here.”

With two bowl games, and one being on Christmas Day, we are anticipating our exposure and economic impact on the City to be huge. We’re just glad that we are able to have such a great relationship with ESPN so we can give back to the City of Montgomery and Montgomery County, that does so much for us.

TRW: Along with the two bowl games, you were also the executive director of the FCS Kickoff game this season when Austin Peay beat Central Arkansas. The FCS has decided to play its schedule in the spring yet allowed teams to play out-of-conference games in the fall. If you were coaching today, how would you align your program to play a few games, take a few months off and then play another schedule?

JW: Football is a year-round sport anyways because kids nowadays are working out and training the entire year. So, you would essentially treat the season in the spring as “advanced spring training.” I would use this time to make sure my younger players get a lot of playing time for experience and exposure. I would also make sure to keep practice light and less physical to ensure the players are able to play in both the fall and the spring.

Bowl Schedule

The Camellia Bowl is scheduled for Christmas Day at 2:30 p.m. (EST), while the Montgomery Bowl will be played Dec. 23 at 7:30 p.m. Each game will be broadcast on the ESPN Network.

About The Author

Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers. He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio. A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series. Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time. He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk. Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.

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