While Jim Williams died Wednesday morning at 78 years old, the legendary high school football coach left a lasting legacy and an indelible mark on the Centre County football community.
It’s a legacy that lives on in players he coached — as a head coach at State College, and as an assistant at Bellefonte and to former coach Joe Paterno at Penn State — and in his family.
His grandson Tyler Kaluza, an assistant coach at State High, said it was his grandfather who opened up his eyes to coaching.
“I would always go up with him when he was at Penn State,” Tyler Kaluza told the CDT. “I’d go up to the Lasch Building and get the behind-the-scenes stuff, touring the equipment room, and hanging out with (Brad) ‘Spider’ (Caldwell) and Kirk Diehl.”
After he retired from 16 years of coaching, Williams became an administrative assistant for the football program, retiring in 2005.
While those behind-the-scenes opportunities influenced Tyler, it was seeing his grandfather’s impact on the people he coached that carried the most weight.
“The main thing is seeing the families of the kids he impacted,” he said. “Whether it be the high school kids at State College or eventually at Penn State, just seeing that impact he had, gave me the initiative to (get into teaching and coaching).”
Before beginning his coaching career, Williams, who was born in Bellefonte in 1941 and graduated from State College Area High School in 1959, played football at Penn State. He was a center and linebacker at the university under former Penn State head coach Rip Engle.
Williams began his coaching career at Bellefonte in 1964, coaching there as a defensive assistant through the 1968 season. He left the program to take the head coach position at State High in 1969, where he remained for eight seasons. During that time, Williams compiled a 65-13 record. In 1973, Williams led State High to a No. 1 ranking in the state. That undefeated season was part of a 36-game winning streak that stretched from 1970 to 1974.
After his eight seasons at the helm of the Little Lions, Williams took a defensive assistant position on Paterno’s coaching staff at Penn State. He was on the staff from 1977-1992, totaling sixteen years on the Nittany Lions’ sidelines. He was on the staff during the 1986 season, a season that featured a defense that didn’t allow an opponent to reach 20 points all season. The team went 12-0 and won the national championship that season.
Rick Kaluza, Williams’ son-in-law and Tyler’s father, met Williams in 1985 when he was an assistant at Penn State.
“(Penn State) had just won one national championship and was getting ready for 1986,” Rick Kaluza said. “Being able to meet him at that time and see an inner peek into what goes on within Penn State football, and to see the preparation and the bond he had with his players and the other coaches on staff, it was really cool. At the time, I was a sophomore or junior in college and it was really eye-opening to see all of that.”
Williams took a position as an administrative assistant for the football program in 1993, leaving his post as a defensive assistant coach. He was in charge of preseason arrangements, game-day operations, office management, liaison with high schools and professional sports teams and bowl game preparations in his role as an administrative assistant. After his retirement, Williams returned to coaching as a volunteer assistant at State High from 2005-09.
“I think the impact, not only that he’s had on his family, but from a coaching standpoint, on the student-athletes he’s come in contact with,” Rick Kaluza said. “So many people have reached out to me to express their condolences, and just the impact he had on them growing up and turning them into what they are today is what I’ll remember most. It’s pretty inspiring to hear the impact he had on the youth of that generation.”
Visitation will take place Monday at Koch Funeral Home at 2401 S. Atherton St. from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. A funeral mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Our Lady of Victory on Westerly Parkway in State College.