Football: Former Douglas lineman headed to Navy

After splitting his high school career between Douglas High and the Stevenson boarding school in Pebble Beach, Calif., Billy Coats has signed to play his college career at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Coats, who will primarily be a long snapper for the Midshipmen, is one of two Douglas products to sign with a Division I program this recruiting season. Jeff Nady signed with Nevada earlier this month.

The process, however, was much different than the typical recruiting game as Coats had been pursuing admission into Navy long before any football interest cropped up.

"It was a long process," Coats said. "I had to go through an interview process in order to get nominations from congressmen and senators and to complete the requirements to get in.

"I started talking with a recruiting officer in the area and somewhere in the middle of it I got to talking with the football coaches. I told them I could long-snap and they said there's always a need for that. I sent them a video and a few days later I got the letter of intent.

"I was planning on going there not even thinking about football and it kind of came up in the process. Now it's like, 'I'm going to play Division I football.' That didn't really sink in until I signed the letter."

Navy assistant coach Steve Johns said the team was looking for a good long snapper and he believes that Coats' size (6-5, 220 pounds) and strength has tremendous potential for the program.

Coats is the third in his family to go into the Naval branch as his oldest brother, Tyler, will be graduating from the academy this spring and his middle brother, David, is about to head into Navy diver training.

"We weren't really a military family, but now all three of us are going to be in the Navy," Coats said. "It's weird the way things work out."

When told of Coats' signing, Douglas coach Mike Rippee wasn't surprised.

"He is a great kid and a very hard worker," Rippee said. "He played as a freshman for us, went away for a year, came back for his junior year and he was going to compete for a starting spot at the strong-side end this year and do the long-snapping for us, but he went back out to California."

Rippee, who stresses special teams in his program, said Coats had developed a knack for the long-snapping position.

"Those guys are critical," Rippee said. "He took over for us on PATs and punts and did a real fine job. It's a very important position that gets overlooked a lot of the time. A guy like that can win or lose a football game.

"The NFL sometimes has one guy on the team that is just there to do that job."

The NFL is nothing new to Coats' family. His father, Dave Wasick, played at San Jose State and later for the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets and New England Patriots.

Coats said he also had the possibility of playing lacrosse at Navy, a sport that he'd played at Stevenson, but that fell through.

"Navy is unique because they traditionally have smaller teams than the schools they're playing," Coats said. "I'm in a situation where I'll come in as one of the tallest players in the program, but I'm really going to have to bulk up.

"Right now, I'm just focusing on getting my long snaps done and making sure that is perfect before I get there. I'm hoping that I'll actually be playing by my junior year."

Coats will likely spend his first year at the United State Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island where he'll play a 10-game schedule against Division I-AA junior varsity, Division III and other prep schools.

"That's how Navy has guys spend their red-shirt year," Coats said. "You go to the prep school and you still get to play games. It'll give me an opportunity to grow academically as well. If you pass there, you're guaranteed a spot in the academy."

Coats said his education at Stevenson helped prepare him for what he'll face at Navy, but Rippee's program at Douglas helped more with preparing for the physical intensity of Division I football. This season, he started on the defensive line at Stevenson, in addition to being the team's long snapper.

"I've been spending a lot of time running and lifting," Coats said. "I've put on some weight. I've been playing basketball too, to improve my quickness."

Rippee said it's the things outside of the athletic world that make Coats' admission to Navy such an accomplishment.

"It's a great opportunity for him," Rippee said. "It's a tremendous thing to accomplish. Just shows that if you keep your grades up, do the right thing and become a good citizen, good things will happen to you."

Navy competes as an independent program with the likes of Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Air Force, Army and Rutgers gracing its schedule.

The Midshipmen qualified for the Poinsettia Bowl last season, where they fell to Utah 35-32.

They are coached by Ken Niumatalolo, who will be entering his first full season next year.

After completing four years at Navy, students receive a bachelor of science degree and are commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy or the Marines.


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