With eyes on records and championships, Justin Williams gives fans in north Nashville plenty to be excited about as he starts the 2009 football season.
The Davidson Academy junior running back is a prime reason the Bears are expected to be a strong contender to repeat as Division II-A state champs and shoot for their fourth title in five years. They host Cascade on Friday in their opener.
“I’m hoping we can repeat, and I can have the same type of year I did last year,” Williams said after a recent scrimmage in which he scored on two long runs. “If I live up to my expectations, those goals are attainable. We should have a good team.”
Shifty and deceptively fast, the rugged 5-7, 195-pound Williams already fashioned a sophomore year that most backs would be more than proud of for an entire career.
Last fall, Williams led the state with 2,807 yards rushing in 375 carries (7½ yards per carry) with 39 touchdowns and 236 points. The yards, touchdowns and points rank third, fourth and fifth best, respectively, in Tennessee state history.
He has 18 straight 100-yard rushing games, which continues into this season. That is second all-time, equaling a 28-year-old string by Warren County’s Jeff Womack. State record is 27, set by University School of Jackson’s Tripp Tucker in 1998.
Last year, Williams scored one TD and threw a halfback pass for another score in an exciting state final 36-34 win over Harding Academy.
Asked about his durability in view of games where he routinely carries the ball 30 to 40 times a game, Williams said, “Coach (Paul) Wade has begun a rigorous training program, not just for me but everyone. That has really helped get me in better shape and in even better condition where I can manage all those carries.”
Virtually unattainable goals for Williams are starting to move within eyesight.
Williams has one individual goal he is shooting for — the state’s single-season rushing total of 3,008 yards, set by ex-BGA star and NFL player Troy Fleming in 1998.
To do that, assuming the Bears play 12 games (10 regular season, two post-season), he must average about 250 yards a game. “That’s going to be tough, but if I stay healthy, I think I can do it,” he said.
But the chances are probably slimmer this year.
That’s because Wade is planning on playing Williams significantly more on defense this season.
“We’re planning on using him a lot as a linebacker, and for that reason, his carries may not be quite as much as last season. He’s so valuable to us in many ways, but we’ll need to rest him at some point,” Wade said. “What makes Justin special is that knack he has of avoiding tacklers and being so strong.”
Williams says the team must step up even more after the possible season-ending injury of his brother, freshman Jordan Williams. In an early August scrimmage, Jordan broke his ankle in three places and underwent surgery after he was expected to provide key backup help.
“That was really tough, especially him being my younger brother,” he said. “As a result, we’re all going to have to pick it up even more.”
Although he says up front it’s too early to start narrowing things down, Williams lists Middle Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Hawaii and Western Kentucky as some colleges he’s looking at.
Davidson will start the season with a freshman quarterback, Zillon Porter, who has stepped up and won the job, replacing the graduated Jordan Hood.
“It’s exciting to see Justin run and know he can break one at any time,” said Porter who is the younger brother of ’05 Goodpasture quarterback Edward Porter. “It’s an honor to start as a freshman. It really helped that Edward is my older brother. We used to look at a lot of films, breaking things down where he showed me what would work and what the defense was doing.”
Handoffs to Williams give the Bears plenty of reason for continued success.