Photo by Derrick Mahone
Forest Park linebacker Brandon Williams is carving out a name for himself on the field, but said he wants to see more team success in the upcoming season.
FOREST PARK — John Diehl blew his whistle and bellowed for about 20 tired, sweating young men to come to him.
They’d just finished running a warm-up mile, so you could hear the rhythm of their heavy breathing even while they were a ways off.
The Forest Park coach sounded the alarm again.
“When I blow this whistle, you’d better be running to me like your shorts were on fire,” he shouted.
And they did, including Brandon Williams who, apparently wasn’t running quite fast enough to Diehl’s liking.
“You’re supposed to be D-1, and that’s as fast as you can move?” Diehl screamed to a smiling, and now faster moving Williams.
He smiled because he knew that the remark was no dig on his hustle.
In fact, he saw it as just the opposite.
“That’s just how he pushes me,” Williams said. “Coach Diehl is probably one of the best coaches I’ve had since I’ve been playing because of the way he pushes me.”
That’s what happens, Diehl said, when you’ve got a player like Williams who has raw talent in abundance — you push them.
“Naturally Brandon has all the God-given gifts an athlete would want,” Diehl said. “He’s one of those athletes that excels naturally just by what God has given him. Now we want to get him to another level.”
Last season’s level saw Williams compile 636 all-purpose yards. He led the 0-10 Panthers with 431 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns.
He was even better on defense, however. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound linebacker totaled 87 tackles with 10 for losses and recorded three sacks.
And just as his coach implied, Williams is starting to get attention from several Div. I schools including Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Missouri, Pitt and Georgia State.
Diehl said it’s all a testament to how Williams is starting to put it all together.
“I can say the light bulb has definitely come on this summer,” Diehl said. “He’s good. But he wants to be great. And to be great, he’s starting to realize how much harder he has to work.”
It’s that work ethic that has caused Williams to become perhaps the best player in the Southern Crescent that nobody seems to be talking about.
Some of that is because of the Panthers’ recent losing ways. But Williams doesn’t mind. The way he sees it, the attention he’s starting to get was a foregone conclusion.
And he’s quick to acknowledge the aforementioned source of his talent that’s causing him to be recognized.
“I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but I knew getting noticed wasn’t going to be a problem,” Williams said. “My belief in God made me know that determination and hard work would help me get there, but determination and hard work mean nothing without my belief in God.”
This year, the Panthers look noticeably bigger and stronger. Diehl said the uptick in energy that Williams brings is starting to rub off on the rest of the team.
“He’s become a leader in the weight room and on the field,” he said. “He’s motivating others to become better. That’s what I’ve been waiting on.”
It’s also what Williams wants for his team more than he wants personal accolades.
“I just want to be able to leave something behind for the younger guys who are coming up,” Williams said. “When I push myself harder, my teammates see that and it makes them want to try harder. Discipline and working hard. Those are the things that will weed out the people who aren’t ready.”