When Williams College finally hired its new football coach, you certainly expected someone with a good pedigree in the game. That's what they got with new coach Mark Raymond.
You didn't expect to get a former Secret Service agent.
"It's interesting," Raymond said to me with a laugh.
The new Williams coach spent three seasons with the U.S. Secret Service from 2007 until 2010, when he decided to return to coaching and take over at St. Lawrence.
Raymond had been an assistant coach at St. Lawrence for three seasons before taking a seven-year stint as the defensive coordinator at Ithaca College. But in 2007, he chucked coaching for the Secret Service.
"It's an interesting story, I guess. But as I've told people, I felt like I've had an obligation to serve," he said during a phone interview last week. "The opportunity came up. I did it. I had a great experience and learned a tremendous amount.
"I knew that my true passion and my calling was as a coach and a teacher. I was fortunate that I got another good opportunity."
Raymond takes over for former Williams coach Aaron Kelton. Raymond comes from St. Lawrence with a 31-30 career record over six seasons. He replaces a coach who went 2-6 over each of the last three seasons of his tenure. Raymond is here to right the Good Ship Eph.
"Every team I've been involved with, it's a new personality and a new group," he said. "Obviously, there's some carry over, but each team takes on a life of its own.
"The 2016 version is going to be a different football team. It's going to be up to us as a collective group to start changing in and believing in ourselves."
Before he gets around to rebuilding a football team with a once-proud tradition, what was this about the Secret Service?
"I worked out of the New York field office in Brooklyn. It's a dual mission. I worked protection details and was also a criminal investigator as a counterfeit agent and an identity theft agent," Raymond said. "I learned a tremendous amount on that job, and I believe it made me a better coach."
Kelton, who is now the head coach at Shorter University in Georgia, had his Ephs 2-1 after three games. But Williams lost its final five, including being swept by Little Three rivals Wesleyan and Amherst for the second consecutive season. The Ephs have lost five straight Little Three games, and haven't beaten Amherst since 2010. That was the year Kelton led the Ephs to an 8-0 record.
So, it's obvious that Raymond has a bit of work ahead of him. It's not unlike when he arrived at St. Lawrence. The Saints were 8-22 in his first three seasons but went 23-8 in the final three seasons. That included a trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Raymond said that now that he has the job, he'll sit down and try to accomplish two things. He wants to put together a staff and he wants to look back at the 2015 Ephs. It's a team that needs a quarterback, has all of its main running backs returning, but lost its top four receivers. On defense, three of the top five tacklers return. That includes last year's leading tackler Alex Brandeis.
The new coach won't be do much recruiting because most of the work is already done. Raymond says he knows some of the recruits, because they were on the radar at St. Lawrence.
"We have to evaluate our team right now," the new coach said. "That's going to be our first component, evaluating the current guys on our roster and see where they'll fit into our philosophy.
"I've had a chance to watch a few games already, so I have a little bit of an idea of who's coming back and who's leaving. Absolutely, an evaluation of our personnel is of utmost importance right now."
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.