Bill Carlin has been a key figure for Adams Central football for 34 years, spending 24 of those years as head coach.
He has compiled a record of 191-57 and led 19 teams to the state playoffs, winning 45 playoff games.
On Tuesday, Carlin announced that he is stepping down from his head coaching position. Adams Central will promote defensive coordinator and assistant coach Shawn Mulligan to head coach.
Carlin said it was a decision that has been looming inside him for some time.
“It was a situation where when we got back from the Shrine Bowl last summer, I went in to talk to the administration before football started. I told them I didn’t know how many more years I was going to be going at it,” Carlin said. “I was going to finish last year and see where it came. Over Christmas break, I decided it was maybe time to move on.”
The Adams Central football program has been in existence for 47 years, so it’s easy to say that Carlin, and his 34 years of service to the program, has left his mark.
But he said it’s Adams Central that left its mark on him.
“I’ve been here long enough to know that when I get cut I bleed red, white and blue,” he said. “The fall will be a challenge for me a little bit these first years. I’ll just step back and have some time. I think it will be a good thing, too.
“I think coach (Tom) Osborne said it best when he said, ‘Sometimes it’s good to walk away before they tell you that you have to leave.’ I wasn’t getting pressured from anybody, but at the same time, sometimes I think that’s true — walk away when things are still positive and growing.”
Adams Central activities director Ron Alexander said Carlin created a impressive football legacy at Adams Central.
“He was not only highly successful, he always represented our school and high school athletics with class,” he said. “He has been the type of coach who has risen to every challenge he has faced and is widely respected across the state of Nebraska.
“We are glad that he will continue to be a part of Adams Central in the classroom and in his other assignments.”
With the school having a few openings, Carlin knew Adams Central would have some flexibility when it came to selecting his predecessor. It could either hire a head coach from the outside, or move Mulligan up and hire an assistant coach.
The decision was to turn the program over to Mulligan.
“As sad of a day as this is, we are also very excited to be a part of the next chapter in Patriot football with Shawn Mulligan at the reins,” Alexander said. “He has earned this opportunity and is a very talented football coach who has high aspirations and an excellent work ethic.”
Carlin’s relationship with Mulligan started when the newly appointed head coach managed a Sherwin Williams paint store. Carlin did some work in the summer as a painter, and Mulligan expressed interest in volunteering as a coach.
After he decided he would rather teach and coach, Mulligan went back to Hastings College to get his teaching endorsement.
Mulligan taught at Silver Lake for a year before taking a job at Adams Central. Carlin said it has been fun to watch Mulligan grow as a coach.
“He’s got a great desire and he wants to win,” Carlin said. “He came back here and has been with us for basically the last 13 years as an assistant, and he just continued to grow as an assistant and became more knowledgeable about the game. I’m excited for him.
“I think he’ll do a great job. That made it a little easier for me to step down, knowing that the program is going to be in very capable hands.”
Carlin said he will stay out of Mulligan’s way, but also will make himself available should the new head coach seek advice.
“Anytime he wants, he knows where my room is,” Carlin said.
Carlin’s success as a coach and as leader of young players has earned the respect of many coaches across the state. He was selected to coach in the Shrine Bowl last summer and in 1997. He was also a coach in the Western Nebraska All-Star game in 1994.
Last season, Carlin represented Nebraska and the Nebraska Coaches Association in the running for National Coach of the Year.
When it comes to statistics and numbers, there’s one that trumps all for Carlin.
“I think one of the things I’m proudest of is that we’ve gone 24 straight years without a losing season. In a school our size, that’s difficult to do,” he said. “I think it shows a lot about the assistant coaches I’ve had working with me and it says a lot about the kids. I think it says a lot about them and how they’ve taken pride in that and done what it has taken to make themselves better.”
While the accolades and acknowledgments are great and well deserved, it’s not what Carlin will remember most about his time as head coach. He’ll miss the relationships that are built between coaches, opposing coaches, officials and, especially, the kids.
“You just develop a bond with them and they end up being almost like your sons, rather than a student of the school,” Carlin said. “You develop a close relationship with them, and that’s the part I’m going to miss the most. I’m still going to be here teaching and working some of the other activities, so I’ll still have a chance to develop those relationships with the kids.”
Along with teaching, Carlin will continue his duties as boys head track and field coach as well as junior high basketball coach.
“I’m just going to cut back,” he said. “I might help with the junior high program. I just wanted to cut back on some of the time that was required at the varsity level. You can easily spend 40-50 hours a week during the season to get your team ready. I want to cut back from that, obviously.”
While Carlin influenced so many young men for more than two decades and made the Adams Central football program a model of consistency, he still feels he got the better end of the deal.
“I’m very lucky and I feel very blessed to have had the opportunities I had here. I felt that I was lucky or fortunate that the school gave me the opportunity when they selected me 24 years ago to take over,” Carlin said. “It was a fun run. I’m anxious to see the kids move forward without me, and I know they will. I guess I just feel very blessed to be where I’m at.”