Kevin Williams smiled and let out a laugh. His face beamed with pride.
Darned right he’s happy to own the red “HUSKER ALUMNI” T-shirt he wore to Monday’s first weekly Nebraska football news conference of the season.
After all, the Husker senior defensive tackle is an alumnus of the University of Nebraska.
“That’s pretty crazy when you think about it,” said Williams, who not only has received his bachelor’s degree, but is only three hours shy of receiving his master’s in engineering.
When he reflects on earning two degrees in five years, Williams realizes it wouldn’t have been possible had he not suffered two serious knee injuries that kept him off the football field.
Yeah, funny how life’s curveballs work sometimes, huh?
“I took full advantage of the injuries,” Williams said. “I took more classes, and I was in the books when I couldn’t be practicing. I was just focusing on that.”
Williams was pleasant, grateful and reflective while visiting with reporters for nearly 15 minutes.
It’s the same Williams those in the media have grown to know over the years — not that guy that went on an uncharacteristic and unexpected rant on the first day of fall camp about not wanting to be referred to as a backup.
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Yeah, about that …
“I don’t really want to talk about it,” Williams said quietly.
Williams, by the way, is listed as a backup on the season’s first depth chart, a spot he’s held for all but two games of his career.
Yet he knows he’ll play significant snaps in Nebraska’s first game Saturday against BYU, behind starters Vincent Valentine and Maliek Collins, as coaches will rotate to keep the defensive line fresh.
He’s also excited about the opportunity to play in a different defensive system that focuses more on single-gap assignment and less on two-gap technique — although defensive line play, Williams said, is universal to a certain extent.
“You line up, and you just destroy the guy ahead of you,” Williams said. “Pretty much, that’s what it comes down to. But I do think this game allows us to play a little bit more comfortable and definitely get after these guys.”
Williams has persevered through two knee injuries that sidelined him the entire 2011 season, when he redshirted, and the 2013 season, as a sophomore.
Yes, it’s human nature to wonder “what if,” Williams admits. But he’s also thankful he’s taken advantages of academic opportunities as a result of the knee injuries.
“That’s how I was raised,” Williams said. “Mom always said that God presents opportunities in mysterious ways, and it’s up to you to really dig down and pray and really find out where the opportunities are, and when they arise, take full advantage of them.”