Had it not been for his high school coach, Mike Woodward, inspiring him to pursue the same profession, Jack Hathaway isn’t sure what he’d be doing today.
It sounds surprising now for Hathaway, 41, the second-year Camas head coach who’s made a name for himself in Southwest Washington high football, but he insists Woodward’s passion and competitiveness made him fall in love with the sport.
“I knew after playing for him I wanted to be a coach,” Hathaway said. “Everything that I’ve done since then is all because of him.”
Woodward, 52, saw many of the same qualities in Hathaway at Mountain View, and gave him his first coaching opportunity at Hudson’s Bay. Later, Hathaway followed Woodward to Southern California to coach on his staff at Westview (Poway).
The two will always be linked from their time as coach and player, colleagues, and soon, competitors leading their 4A Greater St. Helens League teams from opposite sidelines.
Friday will mark another chapter in their history when Woodward’s Battle Ground team faces Camas, coached by Hathaway, in Week 9 to wrap up the regular season. It will be the first time they’ve coached against each other.
“We’re great friends, I love that guy to death, I really do,” Woodward said. “Once that first whistle goes, all the focus goes into our kids and what we’re trying to do.”
Woodward’s first season as head coach at Mountain View in 1999 coincided with Hathaway’s senior year. As the Thunder’s starting quarterback and safety, the hard-nosed, fiery Hathaway was the team’s leader, one of the best Woodward has ever coached in more than two decades.
The two kept in touch while Hathaway went off to play college football, including a stint at Eastern Oregon University, where Woodward also played. During numerous conversations, Hathaway expressed a desire to become a coach. Once he finished playing, he had an open invitation from Woodward to join his staff.
That opportunity presented itself when Hathaway cut his teeth as a linebackers coach in 2005 at Bay. According to Woodward, Hathaway was a natural, combining his knowledge of the game and with a clear ability to convey messages to players and get them to buy in.
“He was dynamite from the get-go,” Woodward said. “Some coaches take a bit to feel themselves out and get used to coaching. It’s different when you’re younger to separate yourself as a player, and now you’re a coach. Man, just from the first day he stepped on the field, you could tell he was special.”
And while many coaches typically have their niche in one phase of the game, Woodward included, Hathaway proved adept at coaching anything.
Hathaway later became Bay’s offensive coordinator, then after Woodward took the head coaching job at Westview, he asked Hathaway to join him in California. Hathaway said yes.
“I can’t remember how I asked him or what made me think he would want to go,” Woodward said with a chuckle. “Maybe just him being young and single and willing to take a crazy chance in life. But he bought in.”
The two helped turn around a 1-9 program to a playoff team in 2007 with Hathaway as defensive coordinator. Hathaway even lived with the Woodward family, crashing on their couch.
But, he felt a pull to return home after one year, and soon after, spread his wings as a head coach when he was hired at Heritage in 2011. Woodward gave him a glowing recommendation for the job.
“I learned pretty quick that I missed home, but other than that I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Hathaway said. “It was an awesome opportunity and fun experience.”
Hathaway climbed his way up to head coach at Camas in 2021, after joining the staff seven years prior.
To this day, coaching in one of the most high-profile programs in the area, Hathaway thinks of his experience playing for and coaching with Woodward as a guiding principle in his own style. Specifically, how the head coach made the game enjoyable.
“My offensive line coach (Justen Wochnick) has to remind me all the time, he’s like, ‘What are we doing? Let’s have some fun,’” Hathaway said. “It’s supposed to be fun, it’s a game. And I think Woody always made it fun too. … You can get so wrapped up in winning games and being great and all those things. But having fun is important too.”
Following a nine-year stint at Westview, Woodward’s return to Washington high school football came in 2016 when he landed at Woodland.
He was there earlier this year when the head coaching job opened at Battle Ground. Coaching at his alma mater would be meaningful, but he also recognized the risk. The team was in the midst of a 17-game losing streak, all while playing in a challenging 4A GSHL with Union, Skyview and Camas.
In an ironic turn, Woodward looked to Hathaway, his former pupil, for advice. The two met for dinner and talked for hours about the idea. Woodward walked away from the conversation convinced that taking the job was the right move.
“It’s funny because here I was his coach and significantly older than him and I’m calling him now for advice,” Woodward said. “I was looking for his blessing. He’s been around the league for a while and he’s at the top program in Southwest Washington. I figured if he gave me his blessing like, hey, you could do it there, that was enough for me. And he certainly did, which was cool.”
The two have learned a lot from each other as coaches and friends. Soon, they’ll see a new side facing off against each other. But after a quick pregame chat on Friday, the attention will shift to their teams and players. After all, they’re the reason each of them got into coaching.
“You coach because you love the game and you want to give back to the game. You also coach to make a difference in young men’s lives,” Hathaway said. “Not to win championships, not to be this or be that. It’s really, you want to be a difference maker. I know Woody was for me, and that’s what I want to be for my players.”