‘Coach’ William Gay Hopes To Turn Nickname Into Job Title After Playing Career

What does the future hold for veteran Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback William Gay? Through 11 NFL seasons, the former fifth-round draft pick has never missed a game. He spent all but one of those seasons under Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh, with a one-year stint in Arizona before returning for the second act of his career.

After such a long time, Gay has virtually seen it all, and done much of it. He has played just about every role in the secondary that could be asked of him. He has been a starter. He has been depth. He has been the nickel slot defender. He has been used as a dime linebacker, and is in a dime role this season. He has even functioned as a safety.

A noted student of the game known for his extensive tape study, what he may have lost in speed he has largely made up for in accrued wisdom, and that has allowed him to continue to make key contributions as he heads toward his mid-30s. He has an interception and a forced fumble this year in relatively limited work.

Gay’s extensive knowledge has been invaluable in extending his playing career and retaining his usefulness to the team. Defensive coordinator Keith Butler told Chris Adamski that the team has given him the nickname of ‘Coach’.

And Gay also told Adamski that he is hoping to make that more than a nickname when all is said and done. He wants to coach football as his life’s work when he hangs up the pads. “And not only coach”, he added. “I want to climb the ladder”.

He hopes to be a defensive coordinator someday, even a head coach. He can follow the example of his own head coach, who used his intelligence and insights into the game to rise in the ranks, though he’ll get a much later start in it because, you know, he was actually an NFL player.

Joe Haden credits Gay for helping him to get the Steelers’ defense down as quickly as he did after he was signed in August. He called him “the smartest dude I have ever played with”, and talked about how he knows everything everybody is doing on the field.

For his part, Gay credits his predecessors, particularly the likes of Troy Polamalu and Deshea Townsend, for his embrace of the philosophical aspect of the sport. Townsend, at least, has extended his football life into the coaching ranks.

After he learned what his teammates are doing, Gay asked himself deeper questions. “’How can the offense attack you?’. And ‘what tendencies does the offense have?’. Things of that nature. That’s how you keep learning, because football evolves and is a whole bunch of learning each year”.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Michael Mosgrove

    YES. gay retires and joins the staff. opens a spot. hopefully hey bey does the same thing.

  • Darth Blount 47

    A few weeks ago, I opined that the Steelers should DEF consider filling the soon to be open WR Coach spot, with Hines Ward. I’ve now heard a rumor that this may actually come to fruition and that Ward is lobbying behind the scenes to make this happen. How cool would it be to see Hines Ward back on the Steeler sidelines?!

    In regards to Big Play Willie Gay, his time as a player is likely coming to a close. His streak of consecutive games started as a DB, is truly amazing. If he can’t scratch and claw his way up through the ranks in Pittsburgh, it would be pretty cool to see him be able to do somewhere, if that is his ultimate post-career goal.

  • Stairway7

    Maybe they finally fire lake

  • heath miller

    hines. my fav player would be awesome…. look what he has done wih JU JU the couple weeks he worked with him in the off season .. so gay replaces lake? i’m all in on that HEEEATH

  • heath miller

    well im sure not a fire lake or haley or tomlin or any current coach .. but to me gay is an upgrade over lake and is totally respected by the current group of guys ..

  • heath miller

    damn FRIEND u are a lot smarter than u look hahah – agreee with both the post … hey you missed something in the post .. no al rivron reference .. oh thats right thats after the game starts and the first flag on the steelers hahah.. enjoy the game my friefoe HEEEAH

  • CoachCot

    Source of this rumor?

  • Chris

    Good for him. I’m sure he realizes this is his last playoff run as a player. It’s going to be an interesting off-season for a lot of steady vets on this team.

  • dany

    I’m surprised Townsend hasn’t risen up the ranks much yet

  • Zach Bolen

    We need to bring Gay back right after we release him but as an assistant to Lake.

  • JC

    About Hines Ward, I commented on that 14 days ago, It’s good to see I’m not the only one that feels like that.

  • Ed Smith

    Gay does not need to put on a Steeler uniform ever again. He had NO business on that field today. He, along with rest of that D, cost us this game. He was so far behind that RB on critical 3rd and long and gives up 40yd double splash play!

  • Dewayne Braxton

    Thank you! Gay should not have made this team. Until you need the bumbs, keeping aging players like Gay and DHB sounds good. Both are terrible.