Video: Warner Robins' Bryan Way talks about retiring after 32 years with the Demons
There’s National Signing Day in a few weeks, something Bryan Way has dealt with in some form or fashion for more than three decades as a football assistant and head coach at Warner Robins.
But Tuesday was a letter-of-intent day at Warner Robins, where faculty members sign a letter indicating a desire to return to the high school for the next year.
“Those have to be in (Tuesday),” Way said.
Way didn’t sign that letter.
With that, the process for Warner Robins to look for its 12th head coach, and fifth since 1973, began.
Players began texting the news out after an early morning meeting.
“I guess good news travels fast,” the 53-year-old said with a laugh in typical self-deprecating fashion. “When people are ready for you to go, they’re excited when that word comes.”
He had been thinking about retiring for a few years, typical among high school teachers as they approach 30 years in the public school system. Way said he had enough sick days to retire after 29 years, but he just wasn’t ready.
“I think once you get to that 30-year mark, it’s in the back of your mind, ‘I can if I want to,’ ” Way said. “I was always, ‘I’m not ready yet, I still want to be doing what I’m doing.’ ”
Back in late November, Way — whose only time away from his alma mater was four years at Georgia — indicated that the decision hadn’t been made but hinted at a lean.
“I hadn’t made up my mind yet, really haven’t even sat down and talked to my principal yet, to be honest with you,” he said then. “I talked to my staff and said I was thinking about it, and probably thinking about it more seriously than I ever have before.”
Way underwent the routine decompression, as he has after every season. And unlike 31 other postseasons, this decompression lasted more than the normal two weeks.
“It had been about four weeks at this point, five weeks, and I wasn’t excited yet,” he said. “Somebody’s telling me it’s time to go.
“Over the Christmas break, I decided it was time.”
But he wanted to wait until after the football banquet, so that the event would be about the players rather than him.
“I wanted to get that out of the way,” he said. “I didn’t want anybody to do or say anything at the banquet for me or on behalf of me, not that anybody would have wanted to.
“That’s about the kids, it ain’t about me.”
The banquet was Thursday. On Tuesday, he told his staff, principal Steve Monday and his players.
Way’s staff includes several assistants coaching at their alma mater: offensive coordinator Bob Davis, defensive line coach Antonio Talton and ninth grade assistants Jordan Singletary and Judd Holland.
As Way approached that 30-year milestone, speculation about his inevitable retirement grew, as did pressure.
Northside had passed Warner Robins as the city’s program of note statewide and outside the state’s borders. And Houston County had suddenly become a major up-and-coming program, dealing Warner Robins three straight losses, including a program-rattling 62-30 defeat in 2014.
The birth of Veterans in 2010 led to yet another redrawing of district boundaries, and as has been the case for several years, Warner Robins took most of the brunt.
“I appreciate some of the things that he’s had to deal with, (like) the opening of some of the new schools,” said Northside head coach Kevin Kinsler, who was a year ahead of Way in high school and is also coaching at his alma mater. “He’s been there through all that, and he sort of takes it in stride.
“Doesn’t complain a lot, gets his guys ready to play.”
Competition grew and served as a reminder that life for Warner Robins football would never be like it was in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, when Way was a 170-pound offensive lineman and then assistant for Robert Davis during the Demons’ glory days.
Way took over under unique circumstances.
Davis left after the 1996 season, an 8-3 year, to start the program at Westside. Longtime assistant Richard Fendley took over and went 52-18 in six seasons with a playoff trip each time but no trips past the second round.
Robbie Pruitt came in from Fitzgerald and was at Warner Robins for a lone 6-5 season, returning to Fitzgerald and staying for eight seasons, opening the door for Way to take over.
Way’s family moved to Warner Robins from McRae when Way was in the sixth grade. And other than four years in college at Georgia, he has been in Warner Robins since.
His wife of 29 years, Robin, was fine with Way’s decision, regardless.
“She was great either way, ‘Whatever you want to do. If you want to keep doing it, that’s great. If you don’t want to, that’s great, too.’ ” Way said, quoting his wife.
He did, however, have some explaining to do to daughters Taylor and Kylie, both in their early 20s.
“My two children still weren’t sure, ‘We’re not gonna have anything to do on Friday night.’ I said, ‘They’re still gonna have games there. I’m pretty sure I can get us in,’ ” Way said.
And when he does show up at the next Warner Robins football game, it’ll be as a civilian for the first time since 1984. He hasn’t closed any doors to coaching, but any job will be as an assistant.
“I’m not one of those guys that’s going to be able to sit around and not do anything,” said Way, who has taught at least a couple of science classes since he was hired. “I’m not good enough at golf or fishing to do them every day.
“I don’t know what it is I’m gonna try to do or have an opportunity to do, but I figure that’s in God’s hands, and he’ll put something out there for me. He always takes care of me.”
Way leaves with a 92-48-1 record, the 2004 Class AAAA state championship and a major impact on his alma mater and city.
“Warner Robins has been very, very good to me,” said Way. “I’ve been blessed more than I deserve.”
Born: McRae, March 14, 1962
High school: Warner Robins, Class of 1980
College: Georgia, Class of 1984
Coaching career: 1984-2003, assistant, Warner Robins; 2004-15, head coach, Warner Robins
Career record: 92-48-1
Career highlights: Double-digit win seasons in 2004, 2011 and 2013; state Class AAAA champions, 2004; part of state champions as a player, assistant and head coach in 1988 and 2004; part of 20 region championships as a player, assistant and head coach.