Spartan signal caller reaps competition rewards
A nine-yard run during Nick Williams' freshman season became prophetic for Manchester University football.
Few people, outside of family, friends and Elmhurst High School alums, knew of the Black and Gold signal caller early on. However, speed the calendar to current day, and there are few that don't know of MU's dual-threat quarterback.
"The first two years, I had to be patient," Williams reminisced. "We had a good group of quarterbacks both seasons, but I hoped I would get a chance to play at some point.
"I do remember that first carry, though," he added. "It gave people a chance to see what I can do."
After playing in a combined five games and rushing for just over 100 and throwing for less than 90 yards as a freshman and sophomore, Williams gained the starter's role midway through 2012 with impressive results. He ranked among the top 100 of NCAA Division III in rushing yards per game (89.2 – 91st) and scoring (7.2 ppg – 84th) en route to second team all-Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference honors.
MU head coach Shannon Griffith contributes some of Williams' success to the competition he had to rise through each season.
"Nick's bided his time, working hard on and off the field," Griffith said. "As a freshman and sophomore, he was one of five quarterback options. Last year, it was a three-man battle throughout camp and then he and (freshman Logan) Haston shared duties through the first four games.
"The biggest reason for giving him the starting duty call was because we didn't have a 30-or-so carry guy in the backfield at the time," he added. "Nick's size and athleticism gave us that ability. It worked out well obviously, as we got on a six-game winning streak to end the year."
The Fort Wayne native has a strong relationship with his coach, a former collegiate quarterback at Ball State University.
"(Coach Griffith and I) talk a lot in practices and during games about what situations are coming up," he said. "I always look to him for the calls, but he has given me some opportunity to survey the defense and then decide from there if need be."
Williams also credits a stout Spartan offensive line for his success.
"I really like all of the guys that I play with, especially the offensive line," he said. "Without them, none of this would be possible. They do a great job holding blocks up front and then changing what they do on the fly if I take off from the line of scrimmage."
The Spartan quarterback's football and athletic career mirrors his path to the starting duties at MU. He had to make a choice between the gridiron, the pitch and the diamond from middle to high school and then, as a football player at Elmhurst HS, he had to work his way through the ranks to get a quarterback shot, even playing wide receiver for a time.
"When I was in elementary school, it was strictly soccer," he said, looking back. "I didn't get a look at football until middle school, but I liked it right away. They had me in the mix for quarterback early, but they also used me at wide receiver all the way through middle and high school.
"I also enjoyed baseball a lot," he added. "I thought about joining the program (at Manchester University), but I decided to stick with football."
Griffith hopes to see his starter's success continue as a senior.
"He's going to have to continue working like he has his previous three seasons," he said. "Nick was able to make good decisions which led to big plays last year. Hopefully, we'll see similar situations this fall."