Against all odds, under the leadership and proficiency of newly appointed Head Coach Bill Khayat, the Brevard College Football Tornados were able to escape a perennially losing mentality and in the process set new individual and team records in every aspect of the game. 2017 USA South Conference leaders would emerge as well.
Named to the position in January of 2017, Khayat was faced with a formidable challenge. Due to the Tornados transitioning into a new division, coupled with the late start, he inherited a team considerably depleted in total numbers—just 24 returnees, only six of whom were seniors. That scenario, in addition to a dismal record of just one winning season in the last ten and a limited recruiting opportunity, did not bode well for future success. There was a real danger of not being able to field a team, let alone post a single victory. Given the situation, sports analysts responded with unsurprisingly pessimistic predictions and assessments: starting from scratch; wins will be few and far between, if any; young and overmatched; facing a brutal task; etc.
Undaunted, Khayat pledged to tirelessly work with purpose—soon to be the team motto—to find the best assistant coaches who could recruit the best players still available, establish a winning ethos, and field a team that Brevard College and the community could embrace with enthusiasm and pride.
In short order, assistants were hired who either played collegiately and/or professionally the position they would coach. This is a testament to Coach Khayat’s desire to give his players an optimum advantage and his belief that on-the-field experience is an invaluable teaching asset.
By the time training camp started, 108 players would report to camp. The downside of this was that 75 percent of them were freshmen. His keen analysis of the talent led to some significant changes. Two of the team’s former quarterbacks were reassigned, one to tight end and the other to wide receiver; a junior transfer was now under center. So, with just thirteen weeks of working together for a common purpose, a group of mostly freshmen, along with a handful of upperclassmen and a new quarterback, were able—in one short season—to post double the victories than the seniors had experienced during their entire careers to date.
In addition to his head coaching responsibilities, Khayat was also the offensive coordinator and tight ends coach. Implementing Khayat’s offensive schemes and protected by an all-freshmen offensive line, transfer quarterback, O’Shay Carter, became the first player in BC’s 11-year NCAA program history to pass for at least 100 yards in eight straight contests and have four multi-TD passing performances in a single season. His best single-game performance came at N.C. Wesleyan where he established the program’s NCAA record for passing yards (499) and tied his own record for most single-game passing TDs (five) in a 58-42 win over the Bishops. The five touchdowns marked the fourth time in his Tornado career that Carter had multiple TD strikes. Even though he was injured for the first and last games of the season, Carter’s eight-game, single season record for completions, yards, and touchdowns surpassed the career records of previous BC quarterbacks. He ranked 2nd in the USA South Conference in yards per game, completions, and touchdowns.
Brevard’s newly converted tight end, Tyler Gregory, who led that position in conference play with 43 catches and 497 receiving yards, was recognized on D3football.com’s Team of the Week following his 14-catch, 225-yard performance against N.C. Wesleyan in which he set a record for most catches in a single game. He also set a new program record for most receiving yards, topping the previous mark of 169 yards which was set five weeks prior at Greensboro by newly converted wideout, Bubba Craven. During the 2017 season, Craven eclipsed the 100-yard mark on four occasions and finished with the most touchdowns. His 11 touchdowns were more TDs than any Brevard unit in the last 11 seasons and are also ranked first in the USA South Conference. Craven’s individual 868 receiving yards in 2017 were more than the combined yardage of the entire receiving corps in 10 of the past 11 seasons. His yards per game ranked 2nd in the conference.
The 2017 unit also became the first in BC’s NCAA program history to post not only a winning record on the road but also the first back-to-back road victories since the 2010 season. They also claimed victory over all their in-state conference opponents. 2017 also saw the Tornados, for just the second time in their history, post two fifty-plus points in downing their opponents.
The Brevard offense finished among the top five in program history in seven major team categories including ranking 1st in passing yards and first quarter points, 2nd in fourth quarter points and 4th in total points, first downs, total offense yards, and red zone scores.
The defense flourished as well. Linebacker Jason Nieradka led the conference in fumble recoveries and is second in tackles while fellow linebacker Jinsly Jhon established the program’s NCAA record for most single-game tackles (24) and ranked third in the conference in tackles.
Special teams also joined in on the team’s rewriting of the record books. Freshman kicker Joseph Calhoun made his entry with his 10 field goal conversions in 12 attempts (83.3 percent) and he is tied with Dayton Rogers for the most field goals (three) between 40 and 49 yards in the 11-year NCAA history of the Tornados. His 100% PAT completion rate was 1st in the USA South Conference.
Sophomore Xavier Brown became the first Tornado in BC’s NCAA history to score a touchdown via a kickoff return, and Malik Silva became the first Tornado to record multiple blocked punts in the same game in BC’s NCAA history. He returned the second punt of the game for a 34-yard touchdown.
At his hiring Khayat was described variously by Brevard President, David Joyce, and Athletic Director, Juan Mascaro, as having vision, energy, and charisma for the game of football, a hands-on coach with a real commitment to academic and athletic success, someone who knows how to build a winning program, and has the drive to make Brevard College a Division III powerhouse. By any measure, Coach Khayat, in his first stint at the helm of a college program, fully met those expectations The 2017 season is also a testament to Khayat’s delivering on his own promise to produce a squad of prepared, productive players who would contribute in a significantly positive way to the legacy of the Brevard College Football Tornados.
Bill Khayat hails from a football family. His father, Eddie Khayat, a member of the Tulane Hall of Fame and a thirty-five year veteran of the NFL, ten as a player and twenty-five as a coach, was the starting defensive tackle for the 1960 World Champion Philadelphia Eagles. He was subsequently named the team’s head coach in 1971. His uncle, Robert Khayat, a member of the Ole Miss Hall of Fame and the Chancellor Emeritus of the University of Mississippi, was a Pro Bowl kicker for the Washington Redskins and the recipient of the NFL’s Alumni Achievement Award and the National Football Foundation Distinguished American Award. Both are also members of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
Khayat, a First Team All-State tight end from York Catholic High School (York, Pa.), had his jersey retired in 1991, and he was later inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame. He went on to have a record setting career at Duke University where he became the first tight end in 25 years to lead the Blue Devils in receiving. As a junior, he was an Honorable Mention All-America choice. Other honors included: Duke’s Outstanding Receiver Award, two-time All-ACC (2nd team), 1st team All-Carolina, Academic All-ACC, and the Iron Dukes Academic All-Star team. He also set records for receptions and yardage in the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl. Khayat followed up his college career with stints at the Kansas City Chiefs, Carolina Panthers, and NFL Europe’s Barcelona Dragons.
Khayat began his coaching career as the tight ends coach at Tennessee State University. During two separate turns at TSU (2000–2003, 2013–2015), his coaching achievements included: two All-America and four All-OVC tight ends, an All-America/Walter Payton Award finalist and All-OVC running back, two All-OVC offensive linemen, and one All-OVC kick returner.
Khayat’s NFL coaching experience includes three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals (2004–2006) as offensive quality control coach and assistant offensive line coach where he was part of an offense that led the NFL in passing yards and one that produced the NFL’s leading receiver. From 2007 to 2009, he served as the offensive quality control coach and assistant tight ends coach for the Washington Redskins, whose tight end was named to the Pro Bowl in 2008 and 2009.
Khayat went on to coach two seasons in the United Football League as the tight ends coach and assistant offensive line coach for the Sacramento Mountain Lions where he coached two players to NFL rosters. His last stop before Brevard was Scottsdale Community College where he coached running backs and was a special teams assistant.
Over the course of his career, he has been invited to coach in six prestigious college all-star games, including offensive coordinator roles in the Players All-Star Classic and the East West Shrine Game, as well as back-to-back duties as tight ends coach in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. Most recently, he was named head coach of the Tropic Bowl where he also assumed the multiple roles of offensive coordinator, quarterback coach, and tight ends coach. A second invitation for head coaching duties at the Tropic Bowl was extended at the same time as his being named head coach of the Tornados. It was an offer he chose to decline. His energy and expertise were now solely focused on the rebuilding of the Brevard College football program.