College football is always full of great stories, from the seemingly eternal presence of JoePa walking the sidelines for undefeated Penn State or the resurgence of football at Bear Bryant’s University of Alabama. The second half of the season is underway and battles continue to play out in conferences across the United States, as teams battle for spots in BCS bowls and even the championship game.
Texas Tech poses the outside shot for having the story of the year, with its fun-loving, odder than odd leader and coach, Mike Leach. It’s offensive line is made up of such characters that they go by nicknames, like Mr. Incredible, The Hulk, Mankind, Super Hero Indian, Kool-Aid Man, and Fat Albert. But even on a team full of such flavor and personality, the story of the year award may go to new Texas Tech kicker, Matt Williams.
A sophomore at Texas Tech, Williams stepped onto the field at halftime of Texas Tech’s September game against I-AA University of Massachusetts. Called to participate in the halftime contest, the young man nailed a thirty-yard kick that won him a free year’s rent at a local apartment complex and earned him a call from the team’s coach, Mike Leach. Leach set Williams up as the team’s extra point kicker for last week’s game against Kansas, and the former (but never used) kicker for Division II Tarleton State went 6-for-6 in his first Division I game.
A week later, Williams nailed two thirty-yard field goals and four extra points to help sixth-ranked Texas Tech defeat their archrival, the first-ranked University of Texas, 39-33. Where would the team be without Williams, one wonders, after the other two (scholarship-holding) kickers have missed a combined fifty-percent of their field goals and a number of extra points? Fortunately, the team never found itself facing a 4th-and-long inside the forty with the game on the line. But Williams’ presence certainly changes your perspective about what it means for the “twelfth man” to be part of the game.
Williams is living the dream for many who grow up longing to be part of the team, players who participate and help the team experience the elation of success. It’s hard not to see Williams as this year’s version of David on a field full of Goliaths. As David entered the field of battle, ill-equipped and lacking the years of training to be a soldier or even a leader of men, he faced a grizzled veteran who threatened him verbally and physically.
When Williams steps onto the football field for each game, whether it’s the rest of this season or one in the future, do you think he’ll be reminded that he wasn’t good enough for Division II, by the players he faces? Do you think someone will point out that he’s never been great, when he misses for the first time? I’m sure that those voices will cry out, whether they’re from the stands or from within his own helmet. But the truth is, Williams is experiencing a second chance, exceeding expectations, and living the dream.
And the kick is… good!