/notables/2004/tracking-down-the-deep-ball

Tracking down the deep ball

More news about: Mary Hardin-Baylor

P.J. Williams has a knack for getting to everything thrown his way — well, almost everything. The one that Williams wasn’t able to track down, tight end Walter Sharp was, for the game-winning touchdown to cap Mary Hardin-Baylor’s stunning 17-point comeback over Mount Union in last Saturday’s national semifinal win.

“I was just a couple of inches away,” Williams, a junior said earlier this week. “When (quarterback Josh Welch) threw it, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get to it. (Walter) made a great catch. It was like it all happened in slow motion.”

Williams is usually the target on a play like that, and chances are he’ll need to get under a few passes for the Crusaders to match high-scoring Linfield in the Stagg Bowl on Saturday. Mary Hardin-Baylor may get most of its yardage from its multi-faceted rushing attack, but is capable of throwing the football deep when needed. Williams is averaging 20 yards per catch on his team-high 36 receptions this season and has scored 10 touchdowns (nine receiving, one on a punt return).

The reason that the football usually ends up in Williams hands once it’s in the air has something to do with his previous sport of choice. The 27-year-old native of Rockdale, Texas, just 50 miles away from UMHB, spent six seasons playing professional baseball, in the Seattle Mariners’ organization against current big leaguers like Juan Pierre and Corey Patterson, as well as in the independent Atlantic League, before re-enrolling in school. He was best known for his speed (Williams was a state champion hurdler in high school) and his defensive ability but a serious of injuries, including a broken hand and separated shoulder, slowed down his progress to the major leagues.

Case in point was the 2000 season in which Williams followed up a .299 campaign the year before by hitting .291 for the Lancaster Jethawks of the Class A California League, but was sidelined for two-thirds of the season. He was elected an All-Star in 2002, but decided not long after to give up the sport and re-enroll in school. Williams had been selected in the MLB draft out of Blinn Junior College and still had three years of eligibility remaining.

“I always felt that if I got a shot, I could have played in the majors someday,” Williams said. “I had the ability and the tools, but things never happened in the right place at the right time for me. I don’t regret it at all though because right now, I’m playing for a national championship.”

Williams may have had one of his best career days in the national quarterfinal rout of Washington and Jefferson, catching six passes for 133 yards and a touchdown. He also blocked a field goal and returned a punt 57 yards for the game’s opening score. His ability to move quicker than the action and sense both how and where things will develop is something that he brought from baseball to adapt to this sport.

“He can track the football like no one I’ve seen,” said Mary Hardin-Baylor offensive coordinator Matt Robinson. “It must have come from catching all those fly balls.”

It’s easy for opponents to be deceived, tricked into thinking they can cheat their safeties up, since the Crusaders’ run/pass play ratio is greater than three to one. But Williams can catch them off guard.

“I can use my speed to get past the defensive backs,” Williams said. “I’m more of a deep threat, more of a leader with my play on the field than in the huddle. We do run the ball quite a bit, but we will throw it deep when we get the chance. I get my share of plays.”

Williams should be able to calm his teammates down if they get too excited about the glare of the national spotlight. They may joke about his age, but they listen to a man with the experience of having played before bigger crowds and in a championship atmosphere.

“They may call me ‘Grandpa’ or ‘Old Man’ sometimes,” Williams said, “but it’s all serious once we’re on the field.”

Aug. 31: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Moravian at King's
Live stats Tickets
7:00 PM
Methodist at Campbell
7:00 PM
Alfred State at Coast Guard
Live stats
7:00 PM
Allegheny at Thiel
Live stats
7:00 PM
Stevenson at Frostburg State
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Wesley at Delaware Valley
7:00 PM
Mayville St. at Buena Vista
7:30 PM
Manchester at Trine
Video Live stats
8:00 PM
McMurry at Okla. Panhandle
8:00 PM
Millsaps at Belhaven
8:00 PM
Greenville at Millikin
Sep. 1: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Salisbury at Albright
7:00 PM
Mount Ida at Mass-Dartmouth
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Fitchburg State at Curry
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Johns Hopkins at Washington and Lee
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
FDU-Florham at TCNJ
7:00 PM
MIT at Becker
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Westfield State at Nichols
Video Live stats
7:30 PM
Anna Maria at WPI
Video Live stats
7:30 PM
Gettysburg at Bridgewater
Video Live stats
Sep. 2: All times Eastern
12:00 PM
Grove City at Juniata
Live stats Audio
12:00 PM
Framingham State at Endicott
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Worcester State at Salve Regina
Live stats
12:00 PM
Maine Maritime at SUNY-Maritime
Live stats
12:00 PM
Norwich at Morrisville State
Live stats
12:00 PM
Bethany at Ursinus
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Brockport at Hobart
12:00 PM
Augustana at Cortland
12:00 PM
Bridgewater State at Buffalo State
Video Live stats
12:00 PM
Carnegie Mellon at Washington U.
Video Live stats Live stats
12:30 PM
N.C. Wesleyan at Mount Union
Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Wilkes at Muhlenberg
1:00 PM
Kalamazoo at Oberlin
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Catholic at McDaniel
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Heidelberg at Olivet
Live stats
1:00 PM
Franklin and Marshall at Lebanon Valley
1:00 PM
Alma at St. Vincent
1:00 PM
Castleton at Plymouth State
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Lycoming at Susquehanna
1:00 PM
UW-Oshkosh at John Carroll
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Alfred at Ithaca
1:00 PM
Misericordia at Merchant Marine
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Albion at Wabash
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Dickinson at Randolph-Macon
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Bluffton at Wooster
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Union at Husson
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Springfield at Western New England
1:00 PM
Wittenberg at Westminster (Pa.)
Video
1:00 PM
St. John Fisher at Washington and Jefferson
1:00 PM
Ferrum at Emory and Henry
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Averett at Hampden-Sydney
Video Live stats Audio
1:00 PM
Berry at Maryville (Tenn.)
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Waynesburg at Muskingum
Live stats
1:00 PM
William Paterson at RPI
1:00 PM
Franklin at Thomas More
Live stats
1:00 PM
Greensboro at Apprentice
1:00 PM
Case Western Reserve at Chicago
Video Live stats
1:00 PM
Kenyon at Sewanee
1:30 PM
Centre at Hanover
1:30 PM
Mount St. Joseph at Capital
Video Live stats
1:30 PM
Baldwin Wallace at Defiance
Live stats
1:30 PM
Earlham at Wilmington
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Birmingham-Southern at LaGrange
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
St. Norbert at UW-Stevens Point
2:00 PM
Carthage at Aurora
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Hope at Monmouth
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Guilford at Huntingdon
2:00 PM
UW-Stout at Simpson
2:00 PM
Concordia-Moorhead at Nebraska Wesleyan
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Finlandia at Concordia (Wis.)
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
St. Scholastica at St. John's
Video Live stats Audio
2:00 PM
Dubuque at Bethel
2:00 PM
Westminster (Mo.) at Gustavus Adolphus
2:00 PM
Macalester at Carleton
2:00 PM
Grinnell at St. Olaf
2:00 PM
Hamline at Crown
2:00 PM
UW-Whitewater at Illinois Wesleyan
2:00 PM
Whitworth at Central
2:00 PM
Coe at UW-River Falls
2:00 PM
Loras at Elmhurst
2:00 PM
Concordia-Chicago at Ripon
Video Live stats
2:00 PM
Presentation at Lawrence
Video
2:00 PM
George Fox at UW-Platteville
Live stats
2:00 PM
Lake Forest at Beloit
Video
2:10 PM
UW-Eau Claire at St. Thomas
Live stats Audio
3:00 PM
Rockford at MacMurray
3:00 PM
Austin at Bacone
4:00 PM
Puget Sound at La Verne
5:00 PM
Western Connecticut at Hartwick
6:00 PM
Ohio Northern at Adrian
Live stats Audio
6:00 PM
North Park at Anderson
7:00 PM
Christopher Newport at Southern Virginia
Live stats
7:00 PM
Brevard at Davidson
7:00 PM
Gallaudet at Shenandoah
Live stats
7:00 PM
Otterbein at Ohio Wesleyan
7:00 PM
Marietta at Geneva
7:00 PM
Widener at Rowan
7:00 PM
St. Lawrence at Utica
7:00 PM
Southwestern at Denison
7:00 PM
Martin Luther at Minnesota-Morris
7:00 PM
Carroll at Lakeland
7:00 PM
Rose-Hulman at Illinois College
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Trinity Int'l at Wisconsin Lutheran
Video Live stats
7:00 PM
Sul Ross State at Texas-Permian Basin
7:00 PM
Luther at UW-La Crosse
7:00 PM
Wayland Baptist at Louisiana College
7:00 PM
Knox at Eureka
Video Live stats
8:00 PM
Northwestern (Minn.) at Augsburg
8:00 PM
Iowa Wesleyan at Cornell
8:00 PM
Robert Morris-Chicago at North Central (Ill.)
Video Live stats Audio
8:00 PM
Wheaton (Ill.) at Benedictine
8:00 PM
Lyon at Hendrix
8:00 PM
Howard Payne at Southwestern Assemblies
10:00 PM
Trinity (Texas) at Redlands
10:00 PM
Rhodes at Willamette
Live stats
Maintenance in progress.