ABOUT COACH BILL COURTNEY AND AN ARMY OF NORMAL FOLKS
Coach Bill Courtney of Oscar-Winning Undefeated launches 'An Army of Normal Folks' Movement and podcast empower Americans to change our country by 'each of us doing what we can.
Business leader and football coach Bill Courtney joins with other "ordinary" Americans doing extraordinary work to solve our nation's problems through the new movement, An Army of Normal Folks. "Our country's problems will never be solved by a bunch of fancy people in nice suits talking big words in Washington, but by An Army of Normal Folks just deciding 'hey, I can help,'" said Courtney.
Based on his own example, Courtney is joining with the nonprofit Iron Light Labs to launch An Army of Normal Folks. Founder of Classic American Hardwoods, Inc., in 2003, he became a volunteer football coach in America's third poorest zip code and yet 31 out of 32 seniors in his last two seasons went to college. Their success on and off the field was the subject of the documentary film, Undefeated, which won an Academy Award in 2012. "We believe that everyone has the power to create change, no matter how 'ordinary' they or their actions may seem," said Courtney. "And if there's An Army of Normal Folks just doing what we can, imagine how different our country could be." As part of the movement, Courtney hosts the iHeartMedia podcast An Army of Normal Folks. iHeartMedia is the No. 1 podcast publisher globally according to Podtrac.
The podcast features interviews with members of the Army such as Arkansas Police Officer Tommy Norman and Back on My Feet Founder Anne Mahlum. It aims to inspire listeners and present fascinating models that can be replicated in their own communities. All individuals are invited to join An Army of Normal Folks.
AN ARMY OF NORMAL FOLKS - BACKGROUND
America is at a crossroads.
While still having an enviable position in the 21st century, we also suffer from deep divisions, both perceived and very real. From politics and culture to race and religion, Americans seem to disagree on almost everything.
These challenges are complex and multifaceted. And they're not being solved by politicians. Instead, the greatest power lies in the hands of ordinary citizens doing what they can in their own communities. And if each of us does this, just imagine how different our country could be.
Our solution is An Army of Normal Folks.
A grassroots movement led by Coach Bill Courtney, former volunteer football coach of Manassas High School and the subject of the 2012 Academy Award-winning documentary Undefeated, An Army of Normal Folks brings together Americans of all stripes committed to "doing what we can."
Bill and his fellow changemakers believe that by taking action in ordinary but meaningful ways, such as volunteering, donating, and changing even only one other person's life, An Army of Normal Folks can make all of the difference. This is how America can overcome its problems: one life and one community at a time.
Featuring stories of ordinary folks overcoming life's obstacles and their own demons to make an extraordinary difference, the "An Army of Normal Folks" podcast provides a rallying cry for every individual to join a movement that can change the country. The iHeart Radio podcast, which is hosted by Courtney, launched in May 2023 and delivers much-needed inspirational, redemptive, and unifying content. Episodes include fellow members of the Army, such as:
● Tommy Norman, North Little Rock Police Officer known as the "Michael Jordan of Community Policing"
● Anne Mahlum, Back on My Feet founder that's helped over 7,500 homeless Americans secure jobs and independent housing through running
● Luke Mickelson, Sleep in Heavenly Peace founder whose 270 chapters have built over 140,000 beds for kids without them
● Rodney Smith Jr., Raising Men and Women Lawn Care founder who's inspired over 4,300 kids to take the "50 Yard Challenge" of cutting 50 lawns for free for those in need
● Arshay Cooper, rower, the protagonist of the critically acclaimed film A Most Beautiful Thing and leader in starting inner-city rowing programs
● Jon Ponder, a three-time convicted felon whose nonprofit Hope for Prisoners has helped over 4,700 returning citizens in Las Vegas, with only an 8% recidivism rate
● Erin Smith, head of the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program in Northwest Mississippi, and Thomas, a former foster care child she mentored
● Chavis Daniels, a former Manassas Tiger football player under Coach Bill's leadership who has since mentored over 1,000 kids in Memphis
● Bob Zaccheo, who offers "therapy under the hood of a car" to over 5,000 at-risk kids through Project LIFT
WILLIAM B. (BILL) COURTNEY BIO
William B. Courtney (Bill), a native Memphian, launched An Army of Normal Folks in 2023 on the belief that if each of us just does what we can in our own communities, we can change the country. Bill doesn't just "talk the talk;" he knows this sentiment to be true. A successful business owner, Bill founded Classic American Hardwoods, Inc. in 2001. He continues to operate the company, which today employs 140 people with a 45-acre manufacturing facility and domestic sales offices in Memphis, Tennessee and international sales offices in Shanghai, China and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. As the son of a single mom who married five guys, Bill had many coaches who were his real father figures and invested in him. Because of this, helping other kids like himself has been a central part of his life.
In 2003, Bill began volunteering as a football coach at Memphis' inner-city Manassas High School in an effort to turn around its underperforming football team of 19 players with a dismal 4-95, 10-year record. The school is located in a neighborhood where young men are three times more likely to be dead or in jail than have a job or be in college. Prior to Bill's involvement, the Manassas Tigers football team had never won a playoff game in its 110-year history. Under Bill's leadership, the team's record improved to 18-2 with 75 players in the 2008 and 2009 seasons. But Bill's involvement went beyond football. "My philosophy on coaching doesn't start with X's and O's. it starts with believing that players win games and coaches win players," he stated. Bill became a mentor to the mostly fatherless young men on the team, teaching them leadership skills, assisting them academically and caring for their physical and emotional needs. During his final two seasons coaching, 31 out of their 32 seniors went to college, which rarely happens in a neighborhood like Manassas.
The story of Bill coaching inspired the Hollywood film, Undefeated, which won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Feature Length Documentary.
While Bill ended his coaching career with the Manassas Tigers in 2012, he continues to coach a variety of teams and support efforts in and around Memphis. He is the co-founder of Man Rise, an organization that gives financial support to help five city schools with their football programs. He previously served on the board of Orphanos Foundation and supports St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and The North Memphis Steelers, a mentoring and athletics association founded by Chavis Daniels, one of the central figures featured in Undefeated.
Bill's achievements and service have been recognized by several entities. In 2011, he was inducted into Bridge Builders for leadership in diversity, community and justice. He was the 2012 recipient of the Liberty Bowl's Harry Zinn Spirit of 1776 award for distinguished citizenship, recipient of the Carnival Memphis' King's Award for Outstanding Achievement in Business and Industry, and the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame Memphis chapter's award winner for the distinguished American for Contribution to Amateur Athletics. In 2013, he was inducted into the prestigious Society of Entrepreneurs for his success in business and community service. He is the author of "Against the Grain: A Coach's Wisdom on Character, Faith, Family, and Love," released in 2014, and is a national speaker on topics of leadership, character and business. He was a keynote speaker at the Paralympics in Colorado Springs, with Nike, PepsiCo, FedEx, and other nationally recognized companies, and has spoken at numerous churches, schools and hospitals.
Bill also hosts "An Army of Normal Folks," a podcast launched in May 2023. Bill is a graduate of The University of Mississippi. He and his wife Lisa have four children and reside in Memphis.
An Army Of Normal Folks Podcast: