Driven by versatile work ethic, Williams eyes light at end of the tunnel

Jeff Griffith, Staff Writer
ASU Devils
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Kyle Williams has tunnel vision.

The sophomore receiver has lofty aspirations. Visions of a future either in professional football or in the medical industry permeate his thoughts on a daily basis, whether he’s busy in a class or busy burning a defensive back, hitting the books or hitting the weight room.

Williams knows how to make those dreams a reality.

And he won’t let anyone get in his way.

“I see myself in a few years, and I’m going towards that every day,” Williams said. “I just see it, I don’t want to let anything get in my path … I’m taking a step towards my goals and aspirations every day.”

As an emerging weapon for the Sun Devils, Williams’ sophomore year on the gridiron has displayed undeniable growth.

After amassing just 56 receiving yards through 11 games played in 2016, the Southern California native has since burst into both major aspects of the ASU offense, already holding 255 yards through the air and 75 on the ground, not to mention a pair of touchdowns.

“He was my personal breakout, I wanted him to have a real breakout year, just because of how he works and he’s been proving it every week,” quarterback Manny Wilkins said. “I just tell him every day that he comes out here just to continue to give as much effort as he does every day because it’s going to pay off for him. He’s been helping us out a lot.”

But while Williams’ on-field achievements certainly stand out, his impressive résumé through two-and-a-half semesters of college doesn’t end there.

A biomedical engineering major in ASU’s Barrett Honors College, Williams has one of the more difficult course loads offered to Arizona State students as a whole, let alone those who also invest a huge portion of their time into an intense athletic regiment.

One rigorous course, in particular, has him feeling the effects of the demanding path he’s taken through the world of higher education.

“It’s crazy, man,” he said. “Recently, Calculus 3, I’m not doing too well in that class and I may have to retake the course. Things like that, nobody’s perfect and I’m just kind of learning that, you know, sometimes regular students don’t do well in certain courses. I’m working with that, working with (football), just taking it all by its horns.”

“It just makes my story so much greater than I have to retake a couple classes,” he added, in a light-hearted tone. “You face adversity, can’t be perfect all the time.”

As a driven student, Williams’ work ethic translates directly from the classroom and hasn’t gone unnoticed by wide receivers coach Rob Likens, who uses the sophomore’s practice demeanor as an example of the way his position group as a whole should be striving on a daily basis.

“He is a guy that plays really, really hard,” Likens said. “If you are a guy that takes practice lightly, you’ll be embarrassed by watching his film compared to your film in practice. It’s comforting as a coach to have a guy like that where you can say, ‘Hey, that right there is how you practice,’ he’s someone who goes out and does it every day.”

“It all correlates,” Williams added. “If you can be disciplined on the field you can be disciplined off the field and vice versa.”

On the other side of that same coin, Williams’ academic prowess reveals itself in the film room and in a strategic sense, as he aids Likens with an extra pair of intuitive, football-savvy eyes.

“Very intelligent, he sees a lot on gameday and out at practice and he’s in my ear all the time telling me things,” Likens said. “Like today, he was going, ‘Hey, did you see that? So-and-so did this,’ and I’m like, ‘No, I didn’t see that!’ And it’s great to have a guy like that because you can tell he’s grown up his whole life, he’s a detail-oriented person.”

Likens’ relationship with Williams is entirely symbiotic though, as the two both learn from each other and respect each other’s knowledge for the game.

Williams also made it clear that Likens has influenced him greatly as a mentor off the field, exemplifying the type of diligence that he tries to emulate daily.

“He’s a genius, man,” Williams said of Likens. “Everything he’s told me has worked so far. I’m going to keep listening to him. It’s just nice to have a coach who really cares about you, not only on the field but off the field as a man, as a Christian. He’s just a very driven man and he just drives us in a way that’s hard to deny and hard not to follow.”

When it comes down to it, though, while the accolades from his coaching staff are nice, Williams said his hard-working attitude is about far more than making his coaches happy.

It’s in his blood.

“I just do it because I want to be good, I want to be the best, I want to be remembered,” he said. “I’ve been that way since I was a kid, I’ve just been super focused, super detailed, I just have certain rituals I go through in practice, just my focus. Sometimes, I don’t even become myself anymore, I just get so in my own zone.”

For a man with such a relentless work ethic and drive, the sky is clearly the limit, as Williams’ coaches and teammates attested.

So what’s at the end of that tunnel?

“I mean, I want to go to the league, I want to play professional football, that’s been my dream since I was a little kid,” he said. “But if the chips don’t fall that way … I see myself being a successful guy, company owner, family guy, having some kids, take them to soccer practice. Just being a good dad, a great son, continuing to serve my family and serve the Lord. That’s what I see.”

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