Having Fun The Goal For Williams

Linebacker Travis Williams talks about his role on the defense and facing a tough Mississippi State offense.

Auburn, Ala.--Pressure is something associated with sports of all kinds, including college football. Whether it's living up to preseason hype or facing a must-win situation, the game can sometimes be pressure-packed for players and coaches. One Tiger who doesn't live by that theory is sophomore linebacker Travis Williams.

A first-year starter who shares the field with All-American candidates Karlos Dansby and Dontarrious Thomas, Williams has been solid this season for a defense that has gotten better since opening day. This season in five games he has 24 tackles and one big forced fumble, but to him that's all just a part of the game. A game he loves.

"Football is no pressure," Williams says. "Football is football to me. What I've been through growing up this football this is nothing. Football is supposed to be fun, there shouldn't be pressure on anybody. I just like to have fun."

Travis Williams works in a special teams drill with sophomore wide receiver Devin Aromashodu in the background.

While he says he doesn't feel pressure, he does have expectations because of the players next to him. Watching and learning from two experienced seniors all spring and this fall, Williams notes that he's been picked on early because he's the new guy, but that's something he has to expect and conquer.

"It's a challenge," Williams says. "Coach Whitt says, ‘If the challenge is there then you have to bow up.' They say our linebackers are the number one linebacker corps. Not just Karlos and D.T., but that's putting my name in there, too. If I don't show up that's making the whole linebacker corps look bad so I have to show up."

Something that has helped Williams ease into the starting role this season has been improved play up front by a healthy pair of defensive tackles in Demarco McNeil and Spencer Johnson. After on and off seasons each of the last two years due to nagging injuries, both have come out smoking in 2004 and are one of the main reasons why Auburn is currently ninth in the country in total defense.

"I try to hug their neck every chance I get," Williams says of McNeil, Johnson and the entire defensive front. "They are the ones that are keeping those 300-pounders off me. If they want to go out to dinner, I'll take them out to dinner just to keep them boys off me. They are doing a great job because they have to hold up blocks so we can run free. They are still making plays at the same time. That's just great effort."

After facing a physical Arkansas offense last week that relies first and foremost on the run, the Tigers face a change-up this week in a potentially balanced Mississippi State attack. That attack begins with quarterback Kevin Fant, but Williams says the defense's job remains the same each week and won't change this Saturday.

"I wouldn't say it's a different game plan because in the SEC you have to stop the run regardless," Williams notes. "They're going to come out and try to run the ball, but they want to pass. Once we stop the run then the front four can pin their ears back and rush the passer. They're going to try to test us with the run first though."

No matter what the Bulldogs throw at them, Williams says the Tigers will be ready for anything this weekend and are looking forward to yet another challenge. One thing is for sure, Williams will have a smile on his face on the field. Some things will never change.

"I'm having the most fun I'll have while I'm here with those two guys next to me," Williams says. "When it comes down to it I'm going to have to be a leader as a senior. Right now I can just let them lead and I can follow their steps and have fun."

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