COLUMBIA — Size and athleticism. Rock Bridge offensive line coach Jon Lowe says that’s what makes senior Garrick Williams a great player. And it seems Lowe wasn’t joking. During team drills at Monday’s practice, none of Rock Bridge’s rotating defensive ends could get past Williams’ 6-foot-3, 300-pound frame. And on consecutive plays, toss sweeps to the left, Williams proved his athletic ability by quickly getting out of his stance and moving downfield, eventually finding and pancaking senior starting middle linebacker Bryan Garnatz.
“I thought he’d take it easy on me because we’re friends,” Garnatz said. “But after the first one, he’s like ‘sorry, dude, I got to go after you.’”
Lowe says Williams’ performance during Monday’s team drills was not unusual.
“That’s normal (the pancaking),” Lowe said. “That’s how Gary practices. You can tell a lot about a man by how he practices.”
Williams, though heavily recruited by Big 12 and Big 10 schools, has verbally committed to the ACC’s Wake Forest, 691 miles away in Winston-Salem, N.C. Through unofficial visits and football camps, Williams had visited each school that recruited him. However, Wake Forest, the last school he visited and only school to offer him a scholarship, was so appealing Williams verbally committed during his unofficial visit.
“I liked the school,” Williams said. “The coaches seemed like a good bunch of guys. I spoke to the offensive line coach and he seemed like he really wanted me. It seemed like a good fit, so I committed on the spot.”
Although Williams’ on-field talent has not been enough to prevent the Bruins from a disappointing 1-4 start, his off-field leadership has proven to be exemplorary. With only three starters and seven lettermen returning from last year’s 9-1 team, and with Lowe coming into his first year as offensive line coach, Williams, a three-year starter on varsity, knew he had to take a larger leadership role. So at the end of last season, Williams decided to contact the incoming Lowe and the rest of the offensive line to organize an offensive line-only meeting. The meetings continued once a week throughout the entire offseason.
“I tried to take charge,” Williams said. “Me and big Dan (senior Dan Shuflet) just pointed out some stuff for the younger guys, and it was refreshing for the older guys too.”
Lowe said Williams’ initiative to begin organizing the meetings exemplifies his leadership.
“He just said we needed to get together,” Lowe said. “Gary is a guy who guys like to rally around. He’s not as verbal as some of these other guys, but he leads by example on the field. He’s the one guy who I don’t have to worry about. It gives me the opportunity to work with the younger guys.”
Nevertheless, Lowe, a starter at right tackle from 2001-2005 at Alcorn State University, says he is harder on Williams than the other lineman.
“I’m harder on him to prepare him for the college level,” Lowe said. “He can’t do what he’s doing now next year. He’s a man amongst boys on the field, and at times he isn’t. But he’s still one of the best lineman in the state.”
Williams’ on-field talent is the reason why Lowe moved Williams from right tackle to left tackle before Rock Bridge’s third game of the season agaisnt Springdale Har-Ber. Senior quarterback Jake Morse is right handed. With William’s at left tackle, Lowe says Morse blind side is better protected.
“It was nothing against anybody else from our offensive line,” Lowe said. “But it’s better for the offense and Jake’s backside.”
Morse says he has approved of the change.
“It makes me feel very comfortable, Garrick’s a very hard worker,” he said. “He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast for a lineman. He’s very good. There’s a reason why he’s going to Wake Forest. He’ll be a good fit there.”
Not only did Williams choose Wake Forest because of its good football program, but also because of its size and educational reputation. According to its Web site, Wake Forests’ enrollment is 6,739, which is smaller than all of the Big 12 and Big 10 schools Williams decided to pass on. Also, Wake Forest is a private university and has only two undergraduate schools: Wake Forest College and the Wayne Calloway School of Business and Accountancy. Williams wants to study business.
“It’s a private school, it’s not a big school,” Williams said. “The classes aren’t going to be as big, won’t get lost in the crowd and there’s probably going to be a better teacher-student relationship. And their quality of education surpassed all other schools.”
However, Williams said he is currently focused on turning around the Bruins’ season.
“I still feel we have the talent to turn this team around,” he said. “We definitely have enough talent. It’s just a matter of getting the job done.”