Source: USA TODAY
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — When Andre Williams began piling up remarkable rushing statistics this season, Boston College launched an awards campaign on his behalf.
But instead of just emphasizing the numbers that would place his 2013 season among best in college football history, the school pointed out that Williams works as a student assistant for a freshman seminar on social issues. And instead of just highlighting Williams’ entry in the Boston College media guide, it highlighted his own book, which Williams calls a “philosophical memoir”.
The work, entitled “A King, a Queen and a Conscience” is comprised of Williams’ thoughts on big moments in his life and about how they influence his view of the world around him.
“I pretty much write my thoughts every day,” Williams said.
One of those moments came Monday, when he was one of six college football players named as a finalist for the Heisman trophy.
Williams, a senior from Schnecksville, Pa., has put together a dream season – 2,102 yards rushing, 17 TDs – and is the primary reason why Boston College’s football program was able to elevate itself from a 2-10 washout to a 7-5 campaign this year.
Writing time could be limited this week as Williams travels to Orlando for Thursday’s Doak Walker Award ceremony and to New York for Saturday’s Heisman ceremony.
Only four Heisman winners – Barry Sanders, Marcus Allen, Mike Rozier and Ricky Williams – have had a better statistical season than the one Williams will finish in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl in Shreveport, La., against Arizona on New Year’s Eve.
“He completed the ninth best rushing season in the history of college football,” says BC coach Steve Addazio, who has parlayed Williams’ success into a turnaround season for the Eagles, who are bowl-bound for the first time in three seasons. “I’m going to say that again. He completed the ninth best season in … the … history … of college football.”
What has surprised many people – including Williams – is that it basically all came together in an amazing, five-game streak when he rushed for 1,130 yards, which is almost twice as many yards as he gained in any one season during his first three years at BC.
“The goal at the start of the season was to get us back in a bowl game and gain 1,000 yards,” Williams said.
Williams came to Boston College with a reputation as a potential big-play, physical (6-0, 230-pound) running back, who was more of a between the tackles runner who liked to hit targets as much as run around them.
For most of his freshman season, he watched as Montel Harris collected records as BC’s most productive running back.
But when Harris was hurt before the Eagles’ final regular-season game of the 2010 season against Syracuse, Williams stepped into the spotlight, carrying 42 times for 185 yards. It appeared to set the table for his career at Boston College.
“My freshman year a great year for me, coming in, getting my first look at college football,” Williams said. “I got to finish out the season. I finished strong.”
But then he disappeared. Not for a game, not for a season, but essentially for two seasons.
Williams had been bothered or hampered the last two seasons by injuries and BC’s offensive ineptitude.
“We won only four games two years ago,” Williams said. “Part of it was on me. I said, ‘I’m on the field. I’m one of 11 guys on offense, I have to play my part and we are still losing. What do I have to do to get better?’ “
Last season was worse. The Eagles tumbled to 2-10 and Williams was almost an afterthought on offense as the Eagles seemed to play from behind all season.
“I was thinking, maybe I had to change up my game,” Williams said. “Put some more moves in my repertoire. That was a period when I wasn’t being true to my running style.
“My running style is to knock people down. To get from zero to 60 as fast as possible. At 230 pounds and 4.3 4.4 speed, that’s hard to stop.”
Williams also looked at other backs in college football and in the NFL and studied their styles. “I got back to watch what running backs were doing in the league,” he said. “I watched a lot of NFL players like AP (Adrian Peterson), Marshawn Lynch, I even like Stevan Ridley.”
Gradually, and at times spectacularly, Andre Williams rediscovered himself and regained his running style.
This season, with Addazio as the new Boston College coach and a philosophy that BC was going to re-establish itself as “OLine U” with Williams the primary ingredient, Williams started to run the way he knew he could, the way he wanted.
The early numbers – 204 yards on 35 carries against Wake Forest and 263 yards on 30 carries against Army – drew a little attention, but not much.
The later numbers – 149 yards in 49 carries against Florida State and 166 yards in 31 carries against Virginia Tech – gave him a broader profile.
Breaking the 2,000 yard barrier – an accomplishment achieved by only 16 FBS players – elevated Williams into the Heisman and Doak Walker conversation.
At first, Williams could only laugh and shake his head at the speculation of being a Heisman contender. On Monday, he credited his offensive line for his success. “If I actually win the Heisman, I will chop it up and give each of them a piece of the trophy,” he said.
Williams and BC did not end the regular season the way they wanted, falling 34-31 to Syracuse in a game that saw Williams knocked out early in the third quarter with a shoulder injury. Addazio said Williams will be fine for the game against Arizona on New Year’s Eve.
“He’s doing great,” said Addazio. “And we are holding on and letting that shoulder heal 100 percent by game time. Playing on New Year’s Eve is great because it gives him more time to heal along with the other guys, so everybody should be ready to roll.”
Before then, he will visit his family, pick up the undergraduate degree in Applied Psychology and Human Development that he has earned in 3 1/2 years with a 3.0 GPA, and possibly some of college football’s most prestigious awards.
Williams said he was at Brooks Brothers in Chestnut Hill Mall picking up some semi-formal attire for the week when he heard Monday’s Heisman finalist news.
“I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around it yet,” he said. “I’m still blown away by it. I’m just looking forward to it. I’m just excited to be around a lot of other great athletes.”