Williams' Starting Status Comes Full Circle

In his freshman year, he was sensational taking advantage of an injury to the team's starting running back. For virtually the next two years, he was buried deep in the depth chart. In ASU's last few games in 2002 he's reclaiming his standing as the Sun Devils' #1 ball carrier. In this exclusive DevilsDigest.com interview, Mike William's talks about the roller coaster of his career in the maroon and gold.

Better late than never for the junior from Lakewood, CA. In the last regular game of the season Williams exploited Arizona's defense for 162 yards and four scores. His production was quite the eye opener because prior to that contest he had only 313 yards and three touchdowns.

Ex-Sun Devil Delvon Flowers had a lot to do with Williams' success in his first two years in Tempe. Flowers' injury prior to the 2000 season forced Williams, a true freshman at the time, into early action. He did not disappoint with 514 yards and five touchdowns. A healthy Flowers in 2001, along with the emergence of another former ASU player Tom Pace, regulated Williams to limited duty his sophomore year. "It was kind hard then." He recalls "I played a lot my first year, and I did a good job. My second year, I just couldn't get enough playing time, and Delvon was playing great."

Coming into this year, it was widely believed that the junior would almost start by default, since he was challenged by two redshirt freshmen – Hakim Hill and Cornell Canidate. While Hill, despite his big play capabilities, was never a viable contender for a starting position, fellow redshirt freshman Canidate was. By the fifth game of the season (Stanford) Williams was unseated as the starter until the next to last game in the 2002 campaign against USC. The reason for Williams starting in that game was, you guessed it, an injury to Canidate. "You hate to see a teammate going down." He says. "But if you're the backup you gotta be ready to step up when you get the start." Williams didn't exactly dazzle in that game with only 33 yards on ten carries, but Canidate's injury ensured Williams of another start against Arizona. And the rest, as they say, is history…

"That Arizona game is still like a dream." He recalls, "It gave me a lot of confidence, knowing that I can play better than I did earlier in the year. It just gives me confidence for the rest of my career at ASU." When we asked him about the reason for his early season struggles he replied: "I asked the coaches what I wasn't doing well, and they said it was my cuts and long runs, so I worked hard on that. I'm happy that they told me what I wasn't doing well, because I was having a hard time figuring that out. I was just motivated to do better, because I know I was a better player than what it showed."

Williams knows that a start against Kansas State, even coupled with another strong individual performance, won't guarantee anything when the team resumes practices in March. "It's gonna be a lot of competition in spring practice. I showed myself and everybody else that I can still play well. Our running game has to get better, and we have a lot of good running backs on the team. I just hope to be the one who wins the (starting) job. I know I have to work harder just to stay on top of the depth chart, but I'm looking forward to it (spring practice)."

For now, it's the Holiday Bowl that's occupying his mind the most. The Wildcats are known for their excellent run defense, and the ASU running back welcomes the challenge. "We feel that we're one of the best in the Pac-10, and we want to go out there and show that we belong in the Holiday Bowl. We know that Kansas State is tough on defense, but we feel that if we do our job we'll be fine. It's gonna be a tough game, but we'll be ready to play." Benching may have been the catalyst for Mike Williams' improvement throughout the season. However, now that the lesson has been learned, the next time Mike Williams would like to sit on the bench is to rest in between reps as the starting running back for the Sun Devils.

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