April 14, 2010
By Taylor Soper The Daily
Things have changed for Nate Williams.
In 2007, fresh out of Kennedy High School, the now-senior safety made just one start his first season. His sophomore year, he had career-high 76 total tackles, and last season, the Renton native became a more seasoned veteran, recording 62 tackles in 11 games while serving as a mentor for a youthful secondary core.
The former 3A state player of the year and blue-chip recruit says while he still has the same drive as he did in his freshman year, his attitude is different now because he's viewed as one of the team's leaders.
"I wouldn't necessarily say that my drive has changed at all, but I can now say I'm one of the leaders on the team, so that's a pretty big role to live up to," Williams said. "The main thing that's changed with me is just my confidence. My attitude and my confidence level, those two are really the main two things that have changed this year."
Attitude isn't the only thing that is different this year: For three of his years at Washington, Williams had different defensive coaches. Schemes had to be relearned, and finding a comfortable groove on defense wasn't always a simple thing to do. It's taken a while, but finally, the senior can breathe easier. Defensive coordinator Nick Holt and the rest of his staff are all returning for their second year, which simplifies the entire process for both players and coaches.
"Having the same coaching staff with us for the second year in a row, I think that takes a lot of the pressure off a lot of the guys," Williams said. "We know what they're like, and they know how we operate with things like meetings, the weight room, and on- and off-the field-stuff. It will be a lot smoother now, and I'm excited for the year."
Williams enters his final year as a Husky under the spotlight. His coaches have big expectations for the veteran fourth-year player in terms of leadership, on and off the field.
"We have very, very, very high expectations for Nate Williams," said Holt, who enters his second year as defensive coordinator. "He's a really good football player, a good leader and knows our defense. We expect him to have a great senior year."
Secondary coach Jeff Mills says the unique experience Williams had last year -- playing alongside three other freshmen in the secondary -- forced him to elevate his game and improve his somewhat-groomed leadership skills. Those skills, in turn, have proven to be very valuable for Williams, especially for this coming season.
"He has natural leadership skills, but I think [playing alongside freshmen] brought them out even more," Mills said. "He became more vocal by necessity because of the youth around him. It's very important that guys follow our senior leadership, and he's really taken charge this offseason and in the spring."
Williams has had only one interception in his career at the UW, a number he hopes will increase during his senior season. And as a secondary last season, the unit had only three interceptions. Williams says he wants that number to go up as well.
"We have really high expectations, and we want to lead the Pac-10 in a lot of the categories," the senior said. "For the secondary, one of our main goals is to get a few more interceptions. Last year, we only had three, so that's definitely one of the main points we want to improve on in our game."
According to his coaches, Williams is one of the most respected players on the team by his peers and is an all-around "great person." When asked if they are expecting Williams to be a leader this fall, both Mills and Holt responded the same exact way: "No question."
And it's no question that the success of next year's secondary is largely dependent on the senior's ability to perform and lead on and off the field. At the same time, while Williams has a big role next season, coaches are hoping he keeps everything in perspective.
"Hopefully he doesn't try too hard and he just lets it happen," Holt said. "He just needs to keep on working, keep taking in coaching, and good things will happen to him."