Brad Kaaya’s first pass of the season goes for a touchdown to a 280-pound fullback? Yeah, right. Nobody would buy that, including the 280-pound fullback who caught the 4-yarder and who, three days later, still sounded unconvinced.
To appreciate Marquez Williams’ take on what started the University of Miami’s 70-point avalanche Saturday, you must first picture the scene Tuesday. There was Williams, a monstrously powerful bowling ball generously listed at 6-foot-1, sweat dripping from his bald head, applying laughter where people usually use a period: to complete most sentences.
“Almost like it was a movie,” he said of his score, chuckling.
At one point in the discussion, he used the label big-time football player, only with quote marks around the phrase. See, Marquez Williams doesn’t just play the position of selfless, blocking fullback, he lives it.
“No, no, not at all,” he said when asked if he pictured himself on the end of a touchdown pass against Florida A&M. “Especially when I went into the game and I got the call. I kind of ran the route. I just knew Brad wasn’t going to throw it to me. I was like, ‘No way.’ ”
Williams sprinted to the right flat with lots of space, Kaaya threw it and …
“Oh, catch it,” Williams said, laughing as he recalled his thoughts.
Williams’ score helped set the tone for the rout, but did it also set the tone for his senior season? How often will touchdowns happen?
“Every Saturday,” he joked. “I don’t know. I go with what’s in the game plan and what’s best for the team, to help the team. Primarily, that’s blocking.
“And every so often, they throw me a bone.”
WATCH VIDEO OF MARQUEZ WILLIAMS POWER-CLEANING 381 POUNDS
The biggest bone was tossed in the spring. He couldn’t believe his luck then, either. What happened was UM needed a fullback and a fullback needed UM. Williams grew up in Athens, Ga., a fan of the Georgia Bulldogs. But he first played at Mars Hill in North Carolina and earned his undergraduate degree, so he sent “hundreds of emails.” Then?
“A lot of schools told me that I could walk on or they didn’t use a fullback,” he said.
He phoned UM, leaving a message for Jon Richt, UM’s quarterbacks coach. Why not? He and Jon played together at Mars Hill. Jon is the son of Mark Richt, the UM head coach who formerly coached Williams’ beloved Georgia Bulldogs.
“I always had wanted to play with him,” Williams said of Mark Richt. “I thought if I did play for him, that it would be in red and black and not orange and green.”
One day in the spring, Mark Richt called Williams. Keeping in mind that Williams never believed Kaaya would throw him that ball, he certainly wasn’t buying this notion that The Mark Richt was calling him.
“Honestly, I saw a Georgia number and being in North Carolina, I was always picking up Georgia numbers, just thinking it’s family or friends,” Williams said. “So yeah, when I saw the number, I thought somebody was playing a prank on me. It sounded like him. I just had to make sure.”
They hit it off, even though Williams can’t believe his luck. Big-time football player? Williams marvels at the swag Division I players get.
“I tell people all the time when I was at Mars Hill, we got one pair of cleats, we got three pairs of game socks, a workout shirt, workout shorts and an undershirt for the game,” he said. “But other than that, you didn’t get too much more.
“And now I’ve got a whole wardrobe full of Miami gear and I love it. Not a bad deal. I got shoes, I got some shirts and shorts, book bags. I appreciate it. I don’t take this for granted at all.”
Neither do UM coaches.
“It’s hard to find guys who have the size to play fullback but more importantly, guys that have that mindset,” said Thomas Brown, UM’s offensive coordinator and running backs coach. “There are very few guys who are tough enough to go in, down after down, and bloody their nose against 240-pound-plus linebackers and kind of be unselfish with being able to not get the football and just be, basically, glorified linemen.”
Philosophically speaking, Mark Richt won’t abandon the fullback anytime soon, especially given that Williams power-cleans 381 pounds, making him one of the strongest players in college football.
“We do believe in having a lead blocker,” Richt said. “Not every play. We have a lot of one-back run. But when we have a two-back run, I like to have a big, physical fullback who’s basically another pulling guard who can catch and who has a little bit of a running skill. He’s got a great skill set and we’re excited about that.”
Williams knows his role.
“It’s a dying position but it has to be something that you love to do,” said Williams, part of UM’s 373-yard rushing attack. “You have to love blocking. You have to love hitting. And most definitely love to see your running backs run up and down the field and scoring touchdowns. That’s the enjoyment out of it. Catching touchdowns? It’s nice every so often.”
That selflessness spills over to his personal life. His undergraduate studies centered on social work, and his internships have been at an elementary school and with the Department of Juvenile Justice in Asheville, N.C., where he helped assessing cases, “trying to help the individuals instead of detaining them,” he said.
His expectations for a post-football career are directly in line with playing fullback.
“You know, a lot of football players and NFL players are often seen in the media, and their word and what they do really shines bright to others,” Williams said. “So while I’m in the media and the limelight and people see me as a ‘big-time football player,’ underneath all that, I just want to be able to help others.”
Sometimes it’s helping kids on the wrong path. Sometimes it’s helping running backs find the path to the end zone.
And every now and then, it’s paving a path for himself.