The following feature story appeared in the Army Football Game Day program versus Hawai'i on Sept. 11, 2010, and was written by Ryan Yanoshak.
Three new faces. Three new coaches who came to West Point to help develop leaders of characters. And three new coaches who came to Army to win league championships.
Brian Watts, Russell Payne and Joe Heskett might be coaching different sports but all three have the same mission as they take command of their respective sports here at the U.S. Military Academy.
Whether it’s Watts with the golf program, Payne with men’s soccer or Heskett with the wrestling squad, all three coaches were extremely impressed with West Point, the academic and athletic facilities, the wonderful scenery, the chance to raise children at a wonderful, safe place and the opportunity to win championships.
Watts, who came to Army from Oregon State, is the lone new mentor with head coaching experience while Payne and Heskett came highly recommended from Maryland and Ohio State, respectively.
Watts will make his debut as Army head golf coach tomorrow when the Black Knights travel to Wethersfield Country Club for the Central Connecticut State University Invitational.
Payne began his Army coaching career on the first of the month while Heskett opened his official first practice Sept. 6.
For Watts, it’s his second stint as head coach. A former professional golfer who led Oregon State to five NCAA team appearances in his nine seasons as head coach of the Beavers, Watts was named Army’s head golf coach in July 2010.
A 1989 graduate of Western Oregon University, Watts spent 13 seasons with the Beavers, including the last nine as head coach and led the team to four consecutive NCAA Regional berths.
This past season, the Beavers, ranked in the top 25 and recently finished 16th at the NCAA Championships at The Honors Course in Chattanooga, Tenn. Watts helped guide senior Diego Velasquez to a host of national honors as he tied the course record with a 6-under 66 on the way to a fourth-place finish and a first team All-America selection.
Watts steered Oregon State to NCAA Regional appearances in each of the last four seasons, including a fourth-place finish earlier this season.
Prior to embarking on his coaching career, Watts spent four years on various professional tours, including the Golden State Tour, the Space Coast Tour and the Canadian PGA Tour.
Payne, hired on Dec. 15 of last year, spent five years at Maryland where as an assistant coach he helped lead his alma mater to five-straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament, including a pair of national championships in 2005 and 2008. Maryland totaled 83 victories with Payne on the coaching staff, which is the best five-year mark in school history and ranks the third-highest total in the country since 2005.
During his stay in College Park, Md., Payne mentored eight National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) All-Americans, 15 All- Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) selections, a NSCAA Player of the Year, a pair of Academic All-Americans, an NCAA Scholar-Athlete of the Year and 12 Major League Soccer (MLS) draft picks. The Terrapins also achieved the highest graduation success rate in the ACC.
Payne, a B-license US Soccer Federation coach, came to Maryland after a decorated professional career throughout Europe and in the United States. The highlight came in 2002 when he was named the Premier League of Ireland Goalkeeper of the Year during his second season with Derry City. His career also included stays with SV Elversberg (Germany), Shamrock Rovers (Ireland) and AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands), as well as stints in the MLS with Metrostars, the Colorado Rapids and DC United.
Heskett, the most recent hire, took control of the wrestling program on July 7.
A four-time All-American, national champion and former U.S. World Team member who spent the past four years as an assistant at Ohio State University, Heskett, won the 165-pound national championship in 2002. He is Army’s ninth head coach in program history and a 2001 graduate of Iowa State University.
Heskett, the eighth four-time All-American at Iowa State, graduated with a degree in speech communications and a career record of 143-9.
He was a three-time national finalist, winning one championship and finishing second and third. Heskett captured three Big 12 Championships, won the prestigious Midlands event on three occasions and graduated third on Iowa State’s all-time wins list.
Following his decorated collegiate career, Heskett earned a spot on the 2007 U.S. World Team after winning the U.S. Nationals and U.S. World Team Trials. He represented the United States at the ‘07 World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan with a fifth-place finish. He dropped a tough, three-period battle with a two-time world champion from Russia in the semifinals before wrestling back to finish fifth and was one of five wrestlers to qualify at his weight for the Olympics. Earlier that summer, he won a silver medal at 163 pounds at the 2007 Pan American Games.
Less than a week after returning from the World Championships, Heskett was forced to retire from competitive wrestling due to an injury and joined the Ohio State staff.
During his tenure at Ohio State, Heskett helped the Buckeyes to four top-10 team finishes at the NCAA Tournament, three NCAA champions and 15 All-Americans. He played a large role in securing the nation’s top recruiting class in 2006 and helped sign a host of top prospects.
Three new coaches. Same mission.