Bob Lutz

Small Collegiate back Jacques Williams runs big and runs far

Collegiate's Jacques Williams celebrates a touchdown in the first half of the game against Conway Springs in the first round of Class 3A playoffs.
Collegiate's Jacques Williams celebrates a touchdown in the first half of the game against Conway Springs in the first round of Class 3A playoffs. Correspondent

When he was coming up through the kid ranks in football, Jacques Williams was small. But it didn’t matter, because he was also fast and quick.

So while a would-be tackler often would lick his chops in anticipation of getting his hands on Williams, that tackler most often missed making contact.

Whiffed.

Trouble is, Williams never had much of a growth spurt and he arrived at Wichita Collegiate standing barely 5-feet-5 and weighing 120 pounds. Coaches then worried that a solid hit would break Williams in two. When he ran with the football, they grimaced.

But Williams is a survivor. He’s all the way up to 5-7, 165 pounds now and he’s the hottest thing going in the Kansas high school football playoffs.

Collegiate’s offense has rolled in wins over Conway Springs (56-34) and Hesston (60-35), and in those wins Williams has rushed for 453 yards and nine touchdowns. He also had a receiving touchdown against Conway Springs and returned an interception for a TD against Hesston.

Next up for the Spartans is a Class 3A quarterfinal on Saturday afternoon at undefeated Scott City.

“Jacques has a hot hand and our kids are playing very, very well,” Collegiate coach Mike Gehrer said. “He’s very special. He’s a different kind of back because of his speed. If you watched him win the 100-meters at the state track meet last year, he won that race in the first three steps. It’s not his top end that’s so explosive, it’s the burst.”

Williams is through the line and down the field before defenders know what’s happening. And by then it’s often too late.

“He can go from 0 to 90 just like that,” Gehrer said. “But he’s also patient. He lets his blocks happen and then he hits it. He picks his area, finds the hole and goes.”

And although Williams isn’t a big back, he’s no pushover.

“I play with scrappiness,” he said. “I try to deliver a blow when I think I can get extra yards.”

It’s Williams’ strength, Gehrer said, that makes him that much more dangerous. So many small backs go to the ground easily, but not this guy.

“He’s one of the strongest guys on our team,” Collegiate’s coach said. “He delivers blows at the end of his runs that most people aren’t expecting. He’s just an unbelivable worker in the weight room and has been since the first day of his freshman year. And as soon as we were done last November, he really kicked it up another notch.”

Williams would love to play college football. But get this, it’s not his top priority. Academics are the most important thing for Williams because he aspires to be an orthopedic surgeon.

“I want to study pre-med in college and I’m thinking about becoming a surgeon with a specialization in sports injuries because I’ve been around sports for so long,” Williams said. “I’d like to be a guy who repairs ACLs and rotator cuffs for a college or pro team someday.”

Williams said he has long been fascinated by the human body and how it works. He’d study biology all day if he could.

“There are no doctors in my family, but I’ve always been interested in this kind of stuff,” Williams said. “I’m really curious about what goes on with injuries and how they happen.”

Williams, though, has never been hurt, outside of some issues with shin splits during track season.

If there is an opportunity to play some college football in the midst of his studies, Williams plans to take it. But he’s interested in Princeton, Baylor, TCU and SMU and is willing to give up football if he has to.

“I’m trying to feel out all of my options,” Williams said. “I don’t want to go somewhere where I can play football but where I don’t get the education I need. You can only play football for so long and it can only take you so far. I want to keep my GPA up. That’s got to come first.”

Interesting kid, huh? Could his head be on any straighter?

Because he knows his days of playing football could be numbered, Williams wants to get every last second out of the game he can. It might help explain the tear he’s been on in the playoffs.

“I’ve been playing football since I was five years old, so I’m definitely taking the time to relish these opportunities,” Williams said. “My senior year is a big deal and to be able to keep playing in November is huge. We want to keep winning.”

And the Spartans are going to keep handing him the ball.

“He’s dangerous,” Gehrer said. “Not only does he elude tacklers, but he’s so explosive and quick that he out-runs them. Defenders think they have an edge on him, but it’s not enough. And if we have to pick up just two or three yards, he’s still the guy we’re giving the ball to.”

Good luck trying to stop him.

“We’re definitely going to fight this out, for sure,” Williams said. “Our goal is to win a state championship and I don’t think anybody on this team is going down without a fight.”

Reach Bob Lutz at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @boblutz.

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