Little Man In The Middle Steps Up Big

Junior linebacker Travis Williams discusses the play of the defense on Saturday and his first start in the middle.

Auburn, Ala.–-Travis Williams doesn't need any motivation to be a great football player--as much as he needs comes from within.

Told all his life that he was too small to play linebacker, all he's done is prove the critics wrong every step of the way, but they're still sounding off.

This season he moved to middle linebacker for Auburn and was labeled as too small again, but Williams said the words help him everyday to become the player he wants to be. Saturday the Columbia, S.C., native showed what kind of player he can be in the middle, finishing with five tackles in limited duty while also calling the signals in the huddle. He said that it's just the start of something big this season.

"Right now I'm on a mission to show people that I can play middle linebacker," Williams said. "I made mistakes today. I wasn't perfect, but I'm shooting to be perfect out there. I'm on a mission. I'm doing it for all the other small linebackers.

"I'm setting the tone for them so they can have some hope. Every time I hear someone say I can't play middle linebacker it adds fuel to my fire. It's here now. It's time to play in the SEC next week and really time to step up."

Travis Williams started at weakside linebacker last year.

Finishing fifth in the country in total defense last season, Auburn was solid in all phases except the turnover department. That was something that Tigers improved on immediately as they got two fumbles on Saturday and one interception from the Indians. Williams said the difference in this team is speed, but also being aggressive. Instead of sitting back and reacting to the offense, he said this team is taking the fight to the dog and becoming the instigator.

"We've got a lot of speed," Williams said. "We've got to know how to use it. We need controlled aggression. Our whole thing is being physical because everybody knows we have speed. They are going to try to do things here or there so we have to hit them in the mouth and be physical."

After dropping the season opener last season to USC at home, Auburn was looking for a smoother ride this year and got it in a 31-0 victory. Williams said the game is just what the doctor ordered for a young defense trying to find the depth necessary to withstand a tough SEC schedule for an entire season.

"Anytime you get a win it's great, but we got a shutout, too," Williams said. "We didn't let them score, but they had chances. We had to step up. The whole time we were preaching to get off the field, to get three and outs. A couple of times we stayed on the field longer than we should have, but we remained physical.

"We had guys like Zach Gilbert to step in," Williams added. "He's a little banged up, but he stepped in because guys know we need them. Right now we're really not into individual players, we've got to have a team. We kind of remind ourselves of the Patriots (New England Patriots). They didn't have any big names, they had a team. That's what we need. Last year we had some great individual players and they went on to do some great things, but this year we're going to have a team of 11 great guys."

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