Nov. 6, 2013
LOGAN, Utah -
by Megan Allen, USU Athletic Media Relations
Every ounce of Connor Williams' focus right now is on his time and his role with the Utah State football team. The senior defensive end has had his ups and downs, particularly through the last year.
In the 2013 season-opener at Utah, Williams went down just a few plays into the game with a torn tendon in his foot.
"I was really looking forward to that Utah game. I had family coming down to watch me; it was a big game on TV and everything seemed to be falling into place," Williams said. "On the 10th play, I just heard the pop and knew something was wrong. It broke my heart, to be honest. That was really, really hard. It was hard to swallow and a very humbling experience."
He spent the next few weeks working hard in the weight room and physical therapy clinics, while doing what he could from the sidelines.
"As soon as I found out what it was, the first thing I did was text our strength coach (Dave Scholz) to get going as soon as I could," he said. "The coaches still let me travel every week, so I could be there helping out on the sidelines. It helped my recovery because it got me out there more."
The healing process took a few weeks, but by the time the team played BYU the first week of October, Williams was back in the game like he'd never missed a beat, recording a career-high six tackles against the Cougars.
The focus and love Williams has for the game of football hasn't always been there. Growing up in Kanata, Ontario, Canada, high school sports were never a big thing.
"High school sports don't really mean anything," Williams said. "I started playing football when I was young. I didn't want to, but it was the family thing. I liked it, but it wasn't a big deal."
He remembers coming to the United States to football camps and driving past expansive stadiums. Assuming they were collegiate stadiums, he was shocked to find out it was just an average high school.
"Here it's such a big deal what high school you went to and what team you played for," Williams said. "Back home, your high school is your high school. There's not very much pride in it."
Williams' outlook changed on another trip to the U.S. in 2005 to see his uncle at the 2005 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.
"I remember seeing how big it was with all the fans and all the excitement. It was just such a spectacle," he said. "I saw that and made it a goal to come to the states to play college football."
Like so many of this year's senior class, Williams had been talking to the University of Utah, working with Gary Andersen. When Andersen took the head coaching job at Utah State, he invited Williams to come with him.
Williams came to Logan ready to find his place on the Aggie team, particularly along the defensive line.
"A football team is like a big puzzle," Williams said. "Every piece is necessary to make the whole thing. That's especially important on defense. The linebackers can make a big play, but the D-Line has to have the offense in check. Fans see the big tackle behind the line, but they don't see that everybody has their job to make that happen. It's cool to see it combine to make great things."
As one of this year's team captains and a senior, Williams recognizes the role he plays and the importance of his leadership.
"This isn't my first time being captain, so I know I have to be more of a vocal leader. I used to lead by example. I just started to become more of a vocal leader," he said. "In order to be vocal you have to lead by example, too. You can't just tell people what to do. You have to do it or they're not going to respond."
"I just try to be fearless and do whatever I have to do, and hopefully the guys follow," Williams said.
It's no secret the turnaround the Utah State football program has seen in the last few years. Williams is grateful for the chance he has had to be a part of that change and the role he has played in creating a legacy.
"I tell a lot of the younger guys that it's cool when you go to a big program that already has the big name and the tradition, but what I think is even cooler is to help create the tradition," he said. "I think one day kids will want to come to Utah State because of the tradition. That's a cool thing to play for."
As he comes back from his injury and his potential professional career, this season is all that Williams' sights are focused on. He's making an effort to not get too many steps ahead of himself and just enjoy what's left of his college career.
"I'm looking to battle back and make it a great year," he said. "My main goal is just to come back and make a great season of it. I'm an Aggie right now and I'm not looking too far ahead."
However, Williams does have several options once his collegiate playing days are over. Williams, who will graduate from Utah State next spring with a bachelor's degree in sociology, will also have the chance to play professional football after being selected with the 18th overall pick in the 2012 Canadian Football League Draft by his hometown Ottawa Red Blacks.
"It was a cool experience, but I wanted to come back and finish up my senior year here and hopefully leave a winning legacy," Williams said. "I was always told, `play for yourself, play for your family name, then play for your teammates.' I'm just happy to play the game and be a part of a team like this."
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