WALKER – It seemed to be a career juxtaposition of sorts – a volunteer junior high football coach armed with a degree from Tulane Law School – with the former being the career path that ultimately tugged at Chris Womack’s heart.
Before getting his feet totally immersed in a career of commercial law, Womack also had a 20-year run in business as owner of a restaurant before giving way to his true passion of coaching.
“I told my wife I want to convert the way I make a living to what I love to do,” Womack said.
Following a successful five-year stint as defensive coordinator at Lakeshore, the Class 4A state runners-up in 2017, Womack continued in the evolution of his burgeoning career as a defensive coordinator, joining the staff of first-year head coach Chad Mahaffey at Walker High, which hosts Madison Prep in Friday’s season opener at 7 p.m.
“I think we have similar type personnel,” Womack said of Walker compared to Lakeshore, which was 26-2 over the past two seasons. “We’ll be able to do a lot of the same things, play very aggressive; blitz a lot. We’ll show a lot of different fronts, a lot of different looks and mix up our coverages.”
Womack, a native of Baker, played defensive back for coach Larry Thomas. He went on to become a three-year starter and All-Conference free safety at Division III Rhodes College in Memphis, earning the distinction of being inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame as a member of the 1988 team – the only one to play in the Division III playoffs.
Womack said he entertained the idea of coaching, possibly as a graduate assistant in college, but instead followed the wishes of his parents and entered Tulane Law School, where he graduated in 1995. He went right to work for a Baton Rouge-area based law firm, and also became owner of a restaurant in the area.
At the insistence of friends, the coaching bug bit first bit Womack at the grass-roots level, where he coached his son’s little league team, moving on to coach for three years at Monteleone Junior High.
“I knew I was a guy who dreamt about doing that my whole life,” Womack said of coaching.
By 2012, Womack joined the staff of Ron Roberts at Southeastern Louisiana as a defensive quality control coach, working with the defensive backs.
More importantly, he worked closely with then Lions defensive coordinator Pete Golding, who began to help shape Womack’s vision for defense.
Both Roberts, now the defensive coordinator at UL-Lafayette, and Golding, the defensive coordinator at the University of Alabama, were tremendous influences for Womack, who later went to became a non-faculty coach at Lakeshore.
“Ron worked with (LSU defensive coordinator) Dave Aranda at Delta State (2007),” Womack said. “I knew Pete was going to be a great coach and he’s been my biggest influence.”
Given the fact that he hadn’t risen through the traditional coaching ranks like some of his colleagues, Womack proved to be a quick study with a sharp eye for detail. His thirst for knowledge on defense was infinite, annually attending spring workouts of three to four college teams, watching practice, studying film, listening in meetings and taking an endless amount of notes.
The process probably paled in comparison to that of obtaining his law degree, but the pursuit of conquering another task was still rewarding.
“To me it’s fun, I love to learn, and I want to get better,” he said.
When it came time to fill his defensive coordinator’s position, Mahaffey, who took the job at Walker in March, didn’t go the conventional route and hire someone with whom he shared previous ties.
For the hiring of Womack, whose son Aubrey – a senior safety – joined him at Walker, Mahaffey did his own homework and eventually was drawn to Womack's body of work at Lakeshore.
Consecutive undefeated regular seasons were quite a place to begin in breaking down Womack’s resume’ but delving deeper, Mahaffey saw the program’s sterling defensive numbers that included yielding less than 10 points a game over a two-year span.
A year ago, Lakeshore registered five shutouts and allowed one touchdown in three other games. In 2017, the Titans had one shutout and limited the opposition to one touchdown on three occasions.
“I talked to some people that spoke highly of him from a football and personal standpoint,” Mahaffey said. “Then I had a chance to meet him and thought he was a very sharp football guy; had good experience and helped out on the collegiate level. That was all exciting.”
Given the winning pedigree Mahaffey brought from University High, which included three state championships, Womack was excited about the possibilities of working for one of the state’s most successful coaches. That, coupled with a visit to Walker’s campus, which featured some of the school’s new facilities, sealed the deal.
Womack began introducing his odd-man front and 4-2-5 scheme during the spring and worked on it during Walker’s 7-on-7 passing league and summer workouts. The Wildcats continued trying to grasp the system during their preseason scrimmage and jamboree, creating a sense of anticipation going into Friday’s season opener.
“I think they started buying in and understanding what I was talking about from the beginning,” Womack said. “If we get them to where I think they can go, we’ll be pretty good.”