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Renard Williams becoming a disruptive force at Eastern Washington
One decade ago, Renard Williams returned to his Port Orchard home a shattered man.
A shattered boy, anyway. Williams, you see, had been cut by the eighth-grade basketball team at Marcus Whitman Junior High School. That’s not easy on one’s ego when you’ve been dreaming of playing in the NBA.
“I quickly found out that I needed to take another route,” Williams says now.
Williams decided to change his dream to playing in the NFL. A year from now, Williams’ NFL dream may be realized, because the Eastern Washington defensive tackle is ranked No. 1 among Football Championship Subdivision (formerly NCAA Division I-AA) prospects for the 2012 NFL draft.
“Third or fourth round is what people have been throwing around, but that doesn’t mean anything,” said Williams, who is ranked No. 116 overall (fourth round) among 2012 draft prospects by NFLDraftScout.com.
“I could come out and have a horrible senior year and drop, or I could come out and have a hell of a senior year and move up.”
Eastern coaches and players are betting heavily on the latter.
“At this level (FCS), I’ve never seen anything close to the size to go along with the quickness and the explosion that he has,” coach Beau Baldwin said.
“Never seen anything like this,” agreed linebacker Zach Johnson, a senior out of Tumwater High School. “It’s still amazing to see, and I’ve been around him for five years.”
Williams stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 305 pounds, give or take a ham sandwich or two. Basically, he’s a refrigerator with legs that move with bizarre speed and quickness for a man his size.
“The first look you take, ‘Ah, he’s not going to be very fast,’” said Chris Powers, Eastern’s All-American center out of Tahoma High.
“The first thing he does is he shows you quick hands, a quick spin move over the back you’re like, ‘What the hell just happened?’”
Williams earned first-team FCS All-America honors last season, when the Eagles finished 13-2 and won their first national championship. Williams has been named to a horde of preseason All-America teams as Eastern prepares to open the season on Saturday at Washington.
Williams was recruited by the Huskies and plenty of other folks when he starred at South Kitsap High, but he came up short on grades. Big Sky Conference schools like Eastern permit partial academic qualifiers such as Williams to attend school as freshmen, but they can’t work out with the team until they meet certain academic standards over the course of their first year on campus.
Obviously, Williams met those standards. He almost wished he had failed, however, when he struggled through his first fall workout with the Eagles.
“I threw up the whole practice,” he recalls.
“He’s in a little bit better shape now,” Powers said with a laugh.
Williams, as affable off the field as he is ferocious on the field, is quick to admit he wasn’t tough enough physically or mentally until last season. Last season was his first as a full-time starter.
“He’ll say his ‘motor’ wasn’t going like he wanted it to,” Baldwin said, “but even in those early years, there were still opposing coaches saying to me that he was the guy they feared the most.”
Williams recorded a career-high 54 tackles last season despite drawing two or even three blockers much of the time. The extra attention caused his quarterback sacks to drop from 9 in 2009 to 6 last year, but Baldwin said that’s misleading.
“He has the ability to just disrupt the whole game,” Baldwin said. “I mean, he really does.
“He can make people behind him — I’m talking about linebackers and ultimately the secondary — he can make them great just by what he can do to disrupt the line of scrimmage.”
Williams is nearing completion of his communications degree. He plans to move to a warm-weather city in January to train, and marriage to longtime girlfriend/roommate Ashley Kvamme (a South Kitsap graduate) is “definitely” in the plans.
“It’s about time,” Powers joked.
Williams just seems to need a little extra time on certain matters. He cannot wait, however, to prove to everyone that the Eagles can repeat as national champions.
“I definitely like our odds,” he said. “We all know we’re going to have the big target on us.
“Everyone wants to knock off the national champs, so week in and week out, we’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
By Howie Stalwick, Kitsap Sun