Many would not be able to describe the experience of being a part of teams that are practically undefeated throughout your high school and possibly whole college career. DJ Williams is one of the few that is living that fantasy.
Growing up in Pittsburg, CA, he attended De La Salle High School. On graduating high school, he was nationally regarded as one of the top defensive players in the nation. Highly recruited, Williams chose Miami over California, Texas, and Michigan.
After Williams’ freshman year at University of Miami, he debated transferring schools. It was a tough transition for him to continue his schooling across the country.
“I’ll tell you what,” said Hurricanes linebackers coach Vernon Hargreaves, “You could add him to the list of a thousand other freshmen across America. Because everyone has second thoughts when they go away to school whether they are far away from home or not. It was probably a little more difficult for him because he was 3000 miles away. But even the kids who stay close to home have second thoughts if they made the right decision on where to play ball. It wasn’t by any means unusual, and we’re just happy he decided to stay.”
He visited home after his freshman season at Miami, and realized that his friends at home came into their own at their new schools as well, which pushed him to adapt to the new ways of Miami. Williams became more comfortable and began to open up to the rest of the guys on the team little by little.
If making the decision to remain at Miami was not big enough, he continued on to change his position on the Hurricanes squad. Playing Linebacker in High School, then coming to Miami originally as a fullback, he decided that it might be best for him to return to the position he has excelled in for the four previous years of being a ‘Cane.
“The change, well, I felt that for me to maximize my talent, it would be on the defensive side of the ball,” stated Williams. “The fullback, they don’t really get the ball too much, and I felt that I would be a better asset to the team on defense.”
Although this position change occurred at the parallel time as head coach Larry Coker stepped in for former head coach Butch Davis, they had no connection. However Coker has been pleased with the way DJ has filled the position.
“Well now, I wish we could have cloned him and made him a fullback and a linebacker,” exclaimed Coker. “But we couldn’t do that. He most likely belongs at linebacker though, that’s probably his best position. I think he might even have a future in the next level at the linebacker position.”
Hargreaves felt that it was a smart decision for DJ to change it up and take on a new position at UM. It has been a plus for the team, he felt, even though he still agrees that DJ could have excelled in both positions.
“DJ has certainly improved from last year. I think that having a year under his belt at linebacker has helped him,” Hargreaves said. “Just the experience has helped him. And even though he played linebacker in high school, things here in college are a little different. He has made the transition well and becomes better as the years go on; the goal is to get a little bit better every year, and he seems to be doing so.”
Losing only to Washington during his freshman year, Williams has been accustomed to winning, however he does not let it get to his head. He does however, still check in on his high school at home often to find that they are still undefeated.
“I don’t think about it too much, it’s actually not that important to me,” Williams said. “What I focus on is that we just win here as a team. Yes, my high school is still undefeated since I have left. The season, unfortunately, is over by the time I get the chance to head home though. Their season is over around the 6th or 7th of December, and we don’t get to go home till the 23rd. I still keep in touch with the coaches though and they keep me posted on what is going on with my former team across the country.”
DJ is pleased with the way he has been playing this season. He is second on the team, behind Jonathan Vilma, with 71 total tackles; 35 solo and 36 assisted. He also has one sack, for a 5-yard loss. He feels that he has improved immensely from last year. Repetition, knowledge, and pure experience are the factors he feels had the most impact on his development.
“I’ll tell you, DJ is just playing really super,” Coker confirmed. “He has just grown so much as a player, and also as a person; he just shows so much leadership on the field. There are a lot of positive things about DJ, and I’m very happy with his progress.”
You can reach Dana Strokovsky at Hoopg1rl6@aol.com.