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Nate Williams is the X-factor of Riverdale football

Riverdale rising junior Nate Williams is expected to help the Raiders on both sides of the ball this season. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Riverdale rising junior Nate Williams is expected to help the Raiders on both sides of the ball this season. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

RIVERDALE — As defensive back Nate Williams is preparing for this season, he has set a pretty lofty goal for himself.

“I want to average at least two interceptions per game,” he said.

For those on the outside looking in, this may seem like a near impossible goal to achieve. However, those who know Williams well know that anything is possible when considering his versatility and athletic potential.

That potential began to show up, perhaps ahead of schedule, Riverdale’s starting quarterback Greg Taylor sustained a knee injury early in the 2013 season.

It forced the then-sophomore Williams to switch to the offensive side of the ball as starting quarterback. Learning along the way, Williams improved throughout the season and the Raiders managed to salvage a 4-6 record.

Williams is taking the experience he has learned from playing quarterback to give him an advantage on defense. In six games last season, Williams passed for 332 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.

“Now that I’ve been on that side of the ball, I know what the quarterback is thinking now,” Williams said. “I can read the offense much easier and I use that to put myself in a right position to make plays on the ball.”

Coming into his junior season, the coaching staff had seen enough to warrant him playing time on offense once again this year. He will appear at running back, Wildcat quarterback and help out some in the return game. But where Williams is expected to shine most is on defense.

Combined with other standouts like Jonathan Lay and Chidi Okonya, there is reason to believe that Riverdale’s defense will be one of Clayton County’s best.

“We run a 4-3 defense here, and Nate will be all over the place for us,” Raiders defensive coordinator Brandon Thompson said. “He’s got a lot of range and is the best cover guy we have, so he will be utilized in multiple positions.”

For now, Williams is not being heavily recruited by colleges. Though he has received interest from a few Division I colleges such as Ole Miss and Georgia, he hasn’t received any offers. Riverdale head coach Terry Herrod is expecting that to change soon.

“I’m not exaggerating when I say he is the best athlete that I have ever coached,” Herrod said. “When you just look at all of the things he can do athletically it just wows you, I have no doubt he will be a play-maker at the major college level.”

With two years left in his high school career, Williams has plenty of time to make a college choice. Right now he is focused on helping his team win with a new mindset: overcome all adversity.

“We went through a lot last year and that will only make us stronger,” Williams added. “We are brothers, it’s us against the world and we’re going to build each other up to get better. We’re ready for any challenge that will come our way.”

It is that kind of emotion and drive that has propelled Williams to become a main leader on the team, and behind him Herrod believes the team can achieve great things.

“When you consider Nate Williams, he is really the heart and soul of the team,” Herrod said. “Whenever someone is down he picks him up, he makes everyone better. I couldn’t think of a better leader to have on the team.”