Dom Williams: Volleyball turned football star

IT'S DIFFICULT to call Dom Williams a hidden gem, since his Washington State resume includes 19 touchdown catches and nearly 2,000 receiving yards. But Williams is hardly the first Cougar that comes to mind when it comes to a go-to receiver, as he's lived behind the likes of Vince Mayle and Marquess Wilson. That should change in 2015.

It appears this fall is Williams' turn to shine, not that he hasn't already had some moments. As a freshman, Williams grabbed eight passes for 143 yards against Washington. There was the 50-yard catch on the Cougars' game-winning drive against USC in 2013. Later that season, a 154-yard, two-touchdown performance in a win over Utah. Williams had nine touchdown receptions in 2014.

Those games and statistics might become the norm for Williams this coming season. Williams flashed his importance to the team during the spring game, when working with quarterback Luke Falk, the senior-to-be caught eight passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns.

Asked if we can just pencil him in for eight-for-164 every game this fall, Williams laughed.

"I'm going to do the best I can," Williams said.

You get a lot of that when talking to Williams. He's not one to brag about his football accomplishments or abilities. Williams is grateful for the opportunity to play college football, as it was his ticket out of gang-infested Pomona, Calif., where he grew up under the watchful eye of his grandmother, Jennie Dodd.

"It was rough growing up. Lot of gangs around me. Gang members at school trying to fight you, wanting to show their dominance," Williams said. "I got tired of the big city. I was going to get out."

Between his grandmother and sports, Williams never went down the path of gangs. Williams says Dodd was strict with him up until his junior year, when "she started backing off a little." She liked that Williams was studious and into sports, two factors that kept him busy enough to sidetrack gang life.

Growing up, football wasn't Williams' first ticket to college. The 6-foot-2 Williams was accomplished at volleyball and basketball. For a time, Williams thought his future was college volleyball, and had offers from smaller schools. Williams played volleyball three years at Garey (Pomona), and says one year he earned All-American honors as an outside hitter.

Even after accepting a football ride from the Cougars, Williams hoped to play college volleyball until finding out Washington State didn't have a men's program.

Williams said college football didn't come into focus until late in his junior year, when the Cougars began to inquire. USC and Utah followed, but Williams quickly decided Washington State was his college after his Pullman visit.

"I loved the atmosphere and how everybody knows everybody," Williams said.

Following a redshirt year in 2011, Williams has produced in each of his three playing seasons. As a second-year freshman and starting the final five games, Williams caught 34 passes for 546 yards. With seven starts in 2013, Williams improved to 647 receiving yards. Last season playing behind Mayle at X receiver, Williams posted career highs with 43 receptions, 656 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.

In describing his WSU career to date, Williams said "it's been amazing. I love playing here. I know there are some plays in my mind that I should have made, and I wish I had made. I'm never satisfied. I know I can do better."

Williams says he's gearing up for his senior season with a big season in the weight room. He's up to 204 pounds, about 10 pounds heavier than a year ago, with no loss in speed, Williams says.

As a senior, Williams embraces his leadership role.

"Some players do look up to me. I try to set a good example in workouts," Williams said. "This senior class, we want to set a tone. Instead of having the attitude of oh, what if we win, it's we're going to win."

As for Williams' future, he's getting a degree in criminal justice, hoping for a career that someday leads to becoming a prison warden. Williams believes he can make a difference in the prison system.

Williams says his grandmother has never been to a game in Pullman, and is unlikely to travel this season as she's been sick. But Dodd watches Cougar games on television, and though she's not a big football fan, Williams hopes to make her proud this season.

"She's a fan of whatever I'm doing," Williams said.

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