Catching up with CouGreat DT Jeremey Williams

JEREMEY WILLIAMS was the four-star, in-state cherry on top of Mike Price's star-studded 1999 recruiting class and went on to form one of the greatest defensive tackle combos in Cougar history with Rien Long. A run-stopping force, Williams became part of the most storied three-year run in Cougar football, but for all his accomplishments on the field, it was clear his future was elsewhere.

While the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Williams helped lead the Cougars to three consecutive 10-win seasons and the 2003 Rose Bowl, the future bank vice president particularly made his mark in the classroom. Williams studied communications, earned a 3.6 grade point average and became only the fifth player in Pacific-10 history to earn first-team all-academic team honors in four seasons.

Williams' parents, Wallace and Adrian, stressed academics to their son. It's not surprising. Wallace was a high school principal who played for the Cougars during the early 1970s, and Adrian, who passed away in 2012, was a college counselor at Spokane Falls CC.

"If my grades slipped, I wasn't going to play sports. That's the way it was. There were going to be repercussions if my grades slipped," Williams said.

Williams, 34, briefly considered professional football. Following the Cougars' thrilling 2003 Holiday Bowl win over Texas, he headed to Phoenix to train for a shot at the NFL. But during a workout, Williams tore his hamstring, effectively ending his bid to show pro coaches and scouts what he had that spring. The injury kept Williams from full-speed drills for more than a year.

Two years later, Williams had a defining moment. Working at the time for Frito Lay, Williams pulled his truck into a 7-11 parking lot, where he went to a pay phone to return a call to his agent. The agent said the New England Patriots were interested in a tryout. Are you?

"He said, if you can pass a conditioning test, maybe they'll look to sign you," Williams said. "I had to make a decision. My weight was down, and my hamstring wasn't 100 percent. I said no. That's where it ended. I definitely had football aspirations, but I wasn't going to let myself become one of those sad injury cases."

Williams soon landed a job with Bank of America, where he's worked for nine years. He currently lives in Walnut Creek, Calif., and is a senior vice president and marketing manager. Williams covers five West Coast cities, including Spokane and Boise, working with the bank sponsorships and foundations. Among programs that Williams lends assistance is Washington State's Future Cougars, where he helps expose high school students to a potential college career.

"I wish I could buy stock in him," Bill Doba said of Williams in 2003, referring to his life after football.

RETURNING TO PULLMAN and Spokane has great meaning for Williams, who grew up watching Cougar games in Martin Stadium in his youth.

"Some of my best memories were going to Cougar games with my dad. Those were some great father-son moments," Williams said. "When I was getting recruited, Washington State was always in the back of my mind. My parents wanted me to explore all the opportunities, so I visited USC and Washington, and I'm glad I had those experiences. But at the end of the day, it would have been hard for me to play at USC and line up against Washington State."

Williams was rated among the 100 top overall players in the nation by ESPN and The Sporting News. Newly hired Washington coach Rich Neuheisel put on a massive full-court press down the stretch to woo him to Montlake. When he verbally committed to WSU, the collective joy from Cougar Nation was nearly audible.

Before Williams tasted the sweet fruit of three consecutive 10-win seasons, he experienced some bitter. During his freshman season, the Cougars went 4-7, losing three games in overtime.

"That's never fun. We learned quickly the ball can bounce either way. My heart definitely goes out to teams that struggle," Williams said.

From there, it was dream ride for Williams. In 2001, the Cougars won 10 games, including the Sun Bowl. The following year resulted in a Pac-10 championship and an appearance in the Rose Bowl. As a senior, Williams was part of a Cougar team that won 10 games, capped by a stirring 28-20 win over Texas in the Holiday Bowl.

The games Williams remembers most are ones prominent on the minds of many Cougars. The 30-27 overtime win over USC in 2002. The emphatic 48-27 win over UCLA in the Rose Bowl that clinched the 2002 Pac-10 title. And a game that goes a little under the radar, the Cougars' 20-14 win over UCLA in 2001.

It's a game where Williams felt like he and the defense turned the corner, as WSU held a 6-1 UCLA team to 225 yards. Williams, making his first start of the 2001 season, led the Cougars with six tackles.

"We had just come off a loss to Oregon and we switched defenses to a five-man front. The coaches sat us down and said we have to remake our defense. They went with three tackles and added me to the starting lineup. We bottled them up pretty good," Williams said.

Williams landed on the all-Pac 10 team during his junior and senior years, seasons that he combined for nine quarterback sacks despite playing a position where he was primarily a run-stopper. When his Cougar career came to an end in San Diego in the Holiday Bowl win over Texas, Williams recalls soaking in every possible moment.

"I can remember literally being in slow motion. I can remember the last snap, D.D. (Acholonu) wrapping up the quarterback and him heaving the ball. Us celebrating with our fans," Williams said. "You pull off your jersey and it's usually pretty routine, but then you finally realize, you're not going back and there's no winter conditioning.

"That was the last down of football for me."

Williams hasn't completely abandoned football. While working in Seattle at Bank of America, he coached youth football, and in 2010, coached freshmen at Newport High in Bellevue. One of his players was current Cougars' junior safety Isaac Dotson.

Williams, currently single, say he'll return to coaching if he some day has a son.

As for following the current Cougars, Williams says he gets to games when WSU plays in the Bay Area, and never misses a game on television. Williams plans to attend Washington State's Sept. 12 game at Rutgers.

"I think they're close. They're going through what any college team goes through, working on trying to find their identity," Williams said. "It's all about sacrifice.

"I can remember the summer after my true freshman year, coach (Mike) Price calling us into his office and going through the requirements for summer. We couldn't go home. In some of those games where we played down to the wire, we got to look each other in the eye and remembered what we went through, and that got us through some of those tough times."

Read Nick Daschel’s occasional Pac-12 ramblings at

The 1999 WSU recruiting class was the backbone of the 10-win Cougar teams from 2001-03. Among the notables in the class: CB Marcus Trufant, DT Rien Long, LB Curtis Holden, WRs Collin Henderson, Milton Wynn and Marcus Williams, OLs Billy Knotts, Sam Lightbody and Josh Parrish, DTs Williams and Tai Tupai, DE Isaac Brown, linebackers Al Genatone and Ira Davis, TE/DT Josh Shavies and QB Matt Kegel. Speaking to the nature of recruiting, two of its more touted members left the program (RB Deon Burnett, LB Melvin Simmons) but WSU barely blinked. Of the 17 prep players in the '99 class, only two -- LB Kason Love (academics) and WR Forrest Lawson (opted for baseball) -- contributed nothing to the Cougar cause.

Cougfan Top Stories