Bill Lawson has been the offense statistician for the Payson Longhorn football team for 30 years. He loves the game, and has no plans to step down from the volunteer effort — so long as he is healthy and as long as his wife, Eileen, will put up with it.
In fact, his wife has been helping him keep the stats for about the last three years. “I trained her to cover punts and keep the score summary accurately,” Bill said.
The Lawsons came to Payson in 1968. Their two daughters attended Payson schools from kindergarten through the 12th grade. Now, one is career Army and the other works for a Canadian computer company. Eileen still teaches, while Bill retired from education after being a classroom teacher, a coach and administrator. In fact, he was Rim Country Middle School’s first principal.
He has coached football, basketball and track, as well as serving as athletic director at the middle school. Some of his bosses didn’t want him working in athletics when he became an administrator, but he didn’t want to get totally away from sports, so volunteered to become the football team’s statistician.
Over the years, he has seen a great many Longhorn football teams and quite a few coaches. He said probably the best team he has seen was the 2008 group. “They worked really well as a team. All the championship teams were good, but the others generally had a nucleus of outstanding players. The 2008 (Longhorns) played together better as a team,” Bill said.
And the best coaches? Lawson said Terry Nodlinski, who was with the team from the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s, was able to get a lot out of the kids. “He had a different type of quiet strength.”
Lawson said Josh Anderson was able to develop chemistry with the team in the shortest amount of time.
“He came into the program when the kids and the parents both had expectations, and I think he was the last step to creating a winning contribution.”
Lawson said there were lots of coaches that did a good job, but they didn’t really stick around long enough.
As a statistician for the teams, Lawson said he tries to keep a low profile and just keep a record of what takes place.
“I’ve avoided the penalties I had when I was coaching,” he said.
He makes every effort to keep the statistics as accurate as possible because they are what earn players post-season honors. The stats are the only way to truly compare one player to another, especially when those comparisons are made across conferences.
Since his wife has started helping, they try to make the away games special outings.
“Eileen has family in Pinetop, so when we travel east, we make a weekend of it to visit,” he said.
Keeping stats for the Longhorns has taken Lawson all over the state — to reservation schools in Chinle and Tuba City — and all the way over to the Colorado River to Parker.