<strong>LOGAN—</strong> Coming off a game where he registered a career-high in carries and rushing yards, USU senior running back Kerwynn Williams cemented his status as a feature back for the Aggies. However, for most Aggie fans and coaches, Williams’ success isn’t a surprise.
Fresh out of high school, Williams joined the Aggies in 2009. Behind a couple of guys named Robert Turbin and Michael Smith on the depth chart, Williams created his own niche on the team as a kickoff returner, where he had an immediate impact.
“It was definitely big for me, having that opportunity to come in and play as a freshman. It was definitely very exciting for me, and I was very eager to do whatever it took to get myself on the field, and at that time it was mainly special teams,” Williams said. “I’m happy for that experience I gained my freshman year. I feel like I learned a lot behind Mike and Turb. They taught me a lot.”
Seeing action in 11 out of 12 games, Williams racked up 1,131 total kick return yards, which was tops in the WAC and third in the nation.
Following his freshman year, Williams really broke onto the scene in 2010. Turbin had torn his ACL during offseason weightlifting and Smith battled a toe injury. Along with his return prowess, Williams started five games at running back, racking up 451 yards and four touchdowns on 81 carries. He also tallied 1,444 kickoff return yards and one touchdown. Combined, Williams was sixth in the nation in all-purpose yards per game as a sophomore with 170.
“You just have to know your role. I think that’s the biggest thing coming in that I could probably say to anyone that’s a young player – you just have to know your role,” Williams said. “Know that you could either get a lot of playing time and be excited about that, or know that you could get a little playing time. You just want to do whatever you can to help contribute to the team.”
However, just when it seemed Williams had established himself as an integral part of the Aggie offense, he saw his role decrease as a junior. Turbin and Smith – now both in the NFL – returned from injury and regained their positions as USU’s feature backs. The Aggie coaches still found ways to involve Williams, as he managed to rush for a career-high 542 yards during the season, despite the crowded backfield. He also continued to be involved with special teams as a returner.
“The first thing about Kerwynn that I say is his unselfishness. He came in here and didn’t redshirt, and we believe in doing that to what we think will be special players, and we’re doing that to some special players that we think will be special players down the road this year. So, he helps those young men understand that. Secondly, last year was – I’m not going to say a tough year for Kerwynn, but it could have been a tough year for Kerwynn,” USU head coach Gary Andersen said.
“He’s sitting behind Michael Smith, he’s sitting behind Robert Turbin, it would have been very easy to redshirt Kerwynn Williams. But when you have a starting running back that has had a torn ACL and how he’s coming back off that is still clouded. You have your second-team back that has a toe that he’s basically been told that he’ll never play football again, it’s hard not to have a third back that can sit in there. Well it all worked out, thank goodness, for Michael Smith and Robert Turbin, but Kerwynn Williams didn’t get the opportunity to play a lot last year. He didn’t bat an eye. He’s a team player first, he’s very unselfish and didn’t think about himself in that situation, which a lot of young men would have, and it would have been very easy to.”
It’s Williams’ unselfish attitude and hard work ethic that have turned him into the unquestioned leader of the USU running back squad as a senior, and one of the main leaders of the team. Both Andersen and position coach Mike Sanford said Williams couldn’t have handled his situation any better.
“The way he’s handled himself is the way you want a guy to handle himself. He’s been in a situation where he’s had some really good players ahead of him. He’s found a way to get a niche and do something with the opportunities he’s had,” Sanford said. “I think that’s a great treat. Now it’s his chance, and he’s been preparing himself and he’s ready. That’s the way you would want a guy to do it.”
Now coming off a game where he recorded a career-high 205 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns – including a 58-yard burst through the middle of the defense – Williams is hoping to carry that momentum against a team he’s been looking forward to playing for four years.
In Saturday’s Homecoming game, USU will play host to UNLV – the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. A graduate of Valley High School in Nevada – the same high school as Al Lewis, the voice of the Aggies – the Las Vegas native has been looking forward to playing the Rebels since he became an Aggie. This will be the first time USU and UNLV have met since 2008, the year before Williams joined USU.
“I think it should be a good game and I’m excited for it. I’ve been waiting four years to play UNLV, and I’m excited for this game,” Williams said. “I thought I was going to get a chance to see more of them. I haven’t yet, but I’m excited for this weekend.”
However, as big of role as football plays in Williams’ life, it isn’t the only thing he enjoys doing. He said he is a huge fan of movies, enjoys fishing – something he learned from his grandfather – and is a pretty good ice skater.
“Definitely something that will never leave is I’m a big movie guy. If someone asks me what I want to do on the weekend, I’ll definitely say movies first,” Williams said. “I like action movies above all. My favorite action movies by far is James Bond, I’ve seen every James Bond movie that’s been made. I have the whole collection at home in Vegas.”
Along with James Bond movies, Williams revealed that he is also a big fan of the Harry Potter series. At 21-years-old, Williams was only 10 when the first Harry Potter movie was released. He said he feels like has grown up with the characters – however, his magic has been on the field.
“Just me as a person, I realize that nothing is guaranteed. You just have to be happy with what you’re given. I knew that it was just a blessing for me to be here in the first place, and I didn’t want to take that for granted,” Williams said. “I was just very excited to be able to play football after high school, so I wasn’t really worried about it. I knew my time would come, and I was just biding my time and soaking up everything that I could learn so when my time came I was ready.”