Despite modest career figures of four catches for 44 yards in 25 career games with one start, the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder was highly applauded for his work ethic and performance this spring, and has carried that success into his final fall camp and has earned steady first-team repetitions this entire offseason.
Most commendable about Williams' approach and mentality to preparation is his selfless, team-first disposition that truly reflects on the efforts he has made since arriving on campus as a freshman. The probability of being ASU's starting tight end is one of several spoils of Williams' labor; a testament to the determination of a lightly-recruited, undersized tight end from Covina (Calif.) Charter Oak High School that didn't see field action until his redshirt sophomore season as a Sun Devil.
"It's almost hard to believe that I am entering my fifth year at ASU," admits Williams. "I was blessed to have come in with a great group of players back in 2005. Now that I'm a senior, I believe it's my duty to be a leader to all my teammates. It's my responsibility to make sure everyone is ready to play, whether I'm involved in the action. Even if it's a matter of me getting a teammate a cup of water, I'll make sure it's the coldest cup around."
The smallest tight end on the roster, some may view his size as a curse, but Williams believes it to be a blessing as his true advantage lies in the mismatches his versatility provides, as he is too athletic for most linebackers to contain and too physical for safeties to defend. Additionally, he has tirelessly worked to refine both his blocking and pass-catching responsibilities to provide a well-rounded cog to ASU's offensive machinery.
Primarily a special teams coverage player in addition to his role as a reserve tight end, Williams is one of only six scholarship players in his fifth year at ASU and similar to every player returning from the 2008 roster, Williams feels the need to help vindicate last year's disappointing season. As a senior, Williams understands the accountability necessary from every player on the ASU roster, from the All-America candidates to the long-shot walk-ons.
"Our game plan is to go big or go home," states Williams. "The 2009 Sun Devils are going to be a totally different team from last year. We have different goals and different leaders. In practice, the offense works hard to make the defense better, while the defense does its best to help the offense improve. "
With the pendulum of experience in full swing at many positions on the Sun Devil roster, Williams has quickly become the most veteran tight end on the roster, with only one player, reserve Dan Knapp, with more than two seasons of experience at ASU. Having played with and learned from tight ends ranging from Zach Miller to his older brother Brent and athletes such as Lee Burghgraef, Andrew Pettes and Tyrice Thompson, Williams has a clear understanding of the reciprocal importance that leadership has on the development of both underclassmen and returning lettermen alike.
"All the younger guys are very impressive because they work hard and never give up," commends Williams. "They all want to do their part and it's exciting to see the hunger inside them. He helps critique how I block and watches when I run my routes. We complement each other very well and are there to lend a helping hand. We have a very good group and are very close knit."
In addition to several teammates that have processed through the program, in 2009 Williams will be mentored by his third position coach in five years as former running backs coach Jamie Christian replaces Dan Cozzetto, who departed from ASU this offseason for a position on the staff at the University of Washington. The change, however, has proven to be very well-received by Williams and all of ASU's tight ends, as Christian brings a relatable, yet determined presence to this facet of the coaching staff.
"Coach Christian is bringing the swagger back to ASU's tight ends," says Williams. "He is very focused on the fundamentals; how to read coverages, how to use leverages and the importance of having a clear understanding of the formations. "
The entire Sun Devil roster and staff has a clear chip on its collective shoulder after falling from Pac-10 Conference Co-Champions in 2007 to bowl ineligibility in 2008. Exponentially more noticeable is the sense of urgency with which the senior class approaches 2009, and the entire Maroon and Gold squad looks forward to Sept. 5 as the start of a process of retribution to atone for 2008's shortcomings.
"We're preparing to play Sun Devil football the way it is meant to be played," insists Williams. "We have a great group of players and a great group of coaches. When you mix that all up in one pot, I believe it will help us have a great season."
Williams' true impact is one that hasn't been – and may never be – quantitatively evident in box scores or player-of-the-week honors, but his unbreakable dedication, relentless determination and abundant pride to be a Sun Devil make him an integral component of ASU's re-vamped team mentality for 2009.
"We are all ready to overcome the disappointment from last year," adds Williams. "We are working everyday to turn doubters into believers and bring the fire back to Tempe."