November 12, 2009 9:08:00 AM
Ahmad Williams might not want to admit it, but his journey from a football novice to starter on the New Hope High School football team makes for a good story.
Williams, though, isn''t one to boast about his accomplishments, and he is currently writing a book about a battle in a fantasy world, so it will be a while before he takes the time to tell his story in his words.
But New Hope High coach Michael Bradley will gladly take time to talk about a senior offensive lineman who has made incredible strides to become a key member of the Trojans.
"I saw Ahmad walking the hall my first year here and I asked him, ''How come you don''t play football?'' " Bradley said. "He said he really didn''t know. I told him to come out and he came out in the spring, and like he said, he was a fresh piece of meat. He didn''t know anything about the game, but he has worked hard. He gives 100 percent effort, and I am very proud of how far he has come in three years."
New Hope (9-1) has mirrored Williams'' maturation. The Trojans, who advanced to the third round of the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A North Half State playoffs last year, will kick off the Class 5A playoffs at 7 Friday night when they play host to Callaway (8-3).
Williams, who is 6-foot-1, 305 pounds, said he was like "fresh meat thrown onto the fire" when he first started playing with the varsity team. But he has trained, studied, and worked to become a mainstay on the Trojans'' offensive line. He bench presses more than 300 pounds and squats more than 600 pounds and is the team''s strongest player.
"Ahmad pays attention to what he is taught, he remembers the answers, and he gives 100 percent effort," Bradley said. "He is not the most talented player on our offensive line, but he is very strong and he does go as hard as he can go, and he wants to do good every play. He wants to block the man in front of him. He is not always successful at that because he is still not as fundamentally sound as he should be, but he wants to and the effort is there. A lot of effort will make up for a lack of talent in this ballgame most of the time."
Williams said he needed to give everything he had and more because he doubted his reasons for getting involved with football. He said family members and friends constantly asked him why he didn''t play the sport, so he took it up in part of stop them from asking him the question.
The nagging questions stopped as soon as he played, but it took time for Williams to find a comfort level on the field.
"I really did not know what was going on," Williams said. "I did not know what a down block was, I did not know what a linebacker was, I didn''t know anything, so I had to learn all of the positions as I went along."
Williams asked Bradley after his sophomore year what he needed to do to improve. Bradley told him he needed to get in the weight room to improve his strength.
"He took my to heart at that," Bradley said. "He is the strongest player we have. He is a very intelligent young man, he is conscientious about his grades, he wants to please those in authority over him, and he is a pleasure to be around."
Williams also struggled in the weight room to prepare his body for the rigors of football. Success in the weight room came quicker than success on the football field, which helped build his confidence as a player. He said he started to believe more in himself as a junior.
"I had more of an idea and a comprehension of what was going on," Williams said. "Now, 99 percent of it is here. I am still trying to find that 1 percent."
Bradley feels football and a team setting have helped Williams mature and build self-confidence. He said it is not common for a young man who admittedly knows nothing about football makes such a transformation. But he credits Williams for his hard work and his commitment to helping him become a contributor.
"His teammates love him," Bradley said. "They know he is doing all he can do and he is giving 100 percent effort, and they respect him for that. He definitely has the respect of his teammates. They think the world of him."
Williams also feels more comfortable. He feels he has come a long way from being someone who knew little about football to someone who has helped the Trojans go 9-1.
"I have a lot of pride in my strength, I am proud of myself, and in my team for going this far," Williams said.
Williams said he might play football in college. He is certain he will pursue a career in writing. His current project is about a hero who rises to the challenges of fighting against insects on another planet. There are many other layers to the story, but Williams is working those out.
He always seems to have a notebook or journal handy to jot down pieces of the story or new ideas he wants to incorporate into his story.
The more he thinks about it, Williams realizes his journey as a football player mirrors that of the character in his fantasy story. Both men have undergone a transformation and are doing their best to succeed against the odds.
Neither story is finished, but Williams is sure he can help come up with the perfect ending.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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