WALKER – While his father, Walker High’s first-year defensive coordinator Chris Womack toiled in his office after spring practice, senior-to-be Aubrey Womack slowly went through the introductory process with his soon-to-be new teammates.
Aubrey Womack, who grew up around his father playing free safety at Lakeshore High in Mandeville, found himself with a new address when first-year head coach Chad Mahaffey hired Chris Womack to join his coaching staff.
For a senior, who was born and raised in Mandeville and looked forward to finishing his career in Lakeshore’s black and silver colors and graduating with life-long friends, Aubrey Womack faced his first major transition – trying to fit into a different culture and become a green-and-gold-clad Wildcat.
“I was upset initially, leaving all of my friends and teammates,” Aubrey Womack said. “Once a Titan, always a Titan, but I’ve built another family here. They (Walker) had gone through a lot of coaches in the past. Everybody had to learn the program pretty quick because they were used to it.”
Aubrey Womack took advantage of what he referred to as a “welcoming culture” where player embraced their new teammate, spending time together whether that was around the school’s fieldhouse or going out to eat together.
Before he ever stepped foot on the field, and where he’s become Walker’s leader in tackles and interceptions, Womack found different ways to connect with his teammates, and midway through the season, that bond couldn’t be any stronger as the Wildcats (2-2) host Broadmoor (1-3) at 7 p.m. Friday for homecoming.
“He’s fit in really well,” Mahaffey said. “For a kid moving his senior year and getting pulled out of your comfort zone, he’s done a good job with that. Our guys welcomed him and have gotten along well with him. He’s a good player that can help our team a lot.”
The players, unaware of Aubrey’s background as a fierce-hitting safety, were introduced to his competitive nature during less demanding times when the team completed its “Boot Camp” prior to the start of the season.
While there’s plenty of time for the installation of the offensive and defensive schemes, primarily for a first-year coaching staff that Mahaffey had put together, there’s also additional time away from the field where players spend together trying to work on the traits of becoming a team.
Womack walked away with bragging rights after winning the team’s ping-pong tournament, was third in a bowling outing that Mahaffey won as well as intense Wii Sports competition.
“I think they saw I wanted to do the same thing they wanted to do,” Womack said. “I wanted to win. I wasn’t coming here to take over.”
The rangy 6-foot-1, 188-pound Womack brought more than two years of experience as he was Lakeshore’s leading tackler as a junior, he brought a winning pedigree to a program that hadn’t advanced beyond the first round of the state playoffs in more than two decades.
Womack, who became a starter on Lakeshore’s special teams midway through his freshman year and later in the season at safety, was a part of the Titans' team that went through the season undefeated in 2017 before losing to Karr in the Class 4A state championship game.
Unfortunately, Womack spent the entire season on the sideline after experiencing a season-ending knee injury in practice prior to the season-opening game.
“It was pretty rough for a while,” said Womack, of the non-contact injury that resulted in a fractured femur, torn ACL, sprained MCL and a partially torn meniscus. “I had surgery on a Monday and was at the game that Friday. I was so mad, but I went to every practice that year, stayed with the team and learned the (opposing team’s) offenses.”
By the following spring, he was back, going through workouts on a limited basis. Womack eventually worked himself back to running 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, going through the team’s summer 7-on-7 schedule and was cleared to play before the start of the season.
Womack compiled a team-high 88 tackles – including 41 solos – to go along with a team-best three interceptions. He had 3.5 tackles for loss, broke up three passes, recovered a fumble and was named Lakeshore’s co-Defensive MVP, along with earning all-parish and all-district honors.
The Titans enjoyed another memorable season a year later, finishing 12-1 after losing to Neville in the state quarterfinals.
Four months later, Womack’s father agreed to become Walker High’s new defensive coordinator, thus charting a new path for the family.
Aubrey Womack completed the school year at Lakeshore and attended the spring game at Walker, where he got a glimpse of his new team in action against Woodlawn.
He was on the sideline, charting the defensive calls made by his father, a language the 4.0 student had been fluent in for three years while at Lakeshore.
The Womack’s commuted through the summer, where the Wildcats went through their offseason and a month of 7-on-7 competition in June.
Aubrey’s contributions during the latter, as well as preseason camp in August, weren’t limited to just being able to break on the ball in coverage. His knowledge of his father’s defense essentially made him a coach on the field, where teammates approached him with questions concerning their responsibilities in certain instances.
“We mix it up, it’s complex,” Aubrey admitted. “It’s a college-level defense. I came in here and wasn’t one of those guys that was just going to yell at people. I’m going to lead by example and earn your respect. I helped teach it and we came together. They really accepted me.”
The varying 4-2 or 3-3 stack alignment run by the Wildcats remains a constant for Womack, who quarterbacks the unit from his free safety position. Depending on the opponent, there’s equal responsibility in run support or pass coverage, where he’s been up the task.
Womack not only leads Walker with 30 tackles, he ranks third in the parish in that total, along with leading the Wildcats and the parish with three interceptions.
“I try to get big hits and play with a high intensity,” he said. “When somebody makes a mistake, you can’t blame them. You ask what happened and help to get it fixed. If someone makes a big hit, I’m going to be the first one congratulating him.”
Moreover, Mahaffey expects to expand Womack’s role during District 4-5A play which is a week away, lining him up either at the team’s ‘Wildcat’ quarterback – a role he played at Lakeshore – or inside wide receiver.
“We don’t want to overdo it because he does so much for us everywhere on the field,” Mahaffey said. “But there’s no doubt when we get to district and in crunch time, we’ve got to be able to put our best guys out there and he’s certainly one of those guys that can help us.”