For West Virginia University standout senior linebacker Reed Williams, there is life outside of football. Don’t misunderstand. The guy who patrols the middle of the Mountaineers defense and has 57 tackles so far this season is in the crème de la crème of the student-athlete world. His dedication is unwavering, on the football field and in the classroom.
Williams recently returned from a trip that did not require him to wear his football uniform at all. Instead, he sported a tuxedo for a black-tie event at the historic Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, where he was one of 16 finalists for the 2009 William V. Campbell Trophy for a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Class Award. At this event, he was one of the top football players in all of college football — all divisions at all levels — to be recognized for his academic achievements. Williams was awarded an $18,000 scholarship that must be used to fund a graduate degree, a degree that would represent an extension of the two degrees he has already earned at WVU’s College of Business and Economics. He just graduated with his second bachelor’s degree, this one in marketing. His first B&E degree was in finance, which he earned in 2008.
Not long before his trip to New York City, Williams — who has a cumulative grade point average of 3.86 — was named a 2009 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American second team selection. This honor marked the second time he has been honored by inclusion on the team, as he was a first team selection in 2007.
There are definitely two sides to Reed Williams. For example, he is a Big East Academic All-Star, but he was also the 2008 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Defensive Player of the Game in what is considered the greatest bowl victory — and arguably the greatest victory — in WVU football history.
A native of Moorefield, W.Va., Reed grew up in an area known for its burgeoning poultry industry. Reed’s father manages the family’s successful chicken farming operation, while his mother teaches mathematics at Moorefield Middle School. “My parents laid the groundwork,” he said. “They instilled the dedication to studies early in my life. It’s about prioritizing. You have to see what’s most important in your life and take care of it. It’s how you face challenges in life that shows what kind of person you are.”
Williams has been highly successful in balancing this “double life,” one filled with the excitement of being in the spotlight as a top-notch NCAA football player and the fulfillment of an outstanding academic career. December kind of defined this young man, dedicated to his university, his team and his studies. In his last regular season game against Rutgers, Williams was named Big East Player of the Week for his performance in the Mountaineers’ 24-21 victory. He led the team with nine tackles and two sacks. Two weeks later, he walked in convocation ceremonies that awarded him his second business degree.
“Time management is the most important aspect of being a student athlete. I was challenged at WVU the way I should have been challenged. I pushed myself because I was pushed to achieve, and I believe I’m a better student and football player and person because of that,” he said.
Williams’ story is a pretty amazing one. Since he has been a part of the Mountaineers football team, WVU has won four straight bowl games. From the 2006 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia 38-35 to the 2007 Gator Bowl victory over Georgia Tech 38-35, and from the 2008 Fiesta Bowl 48-28 win over Oklahoma to the Meineke Car Care Bowl 31-30 win over North Carolina last December, he describes his journey at WVU as “unimaginable.” Needless to say, he is looking forward to the New Year’s Day Gator Bowl game against Florida State.
“The bowl game is my last hurrah,” Williams said. “It’s the last chapter of my WVU football life. But it’s been a great ride academically, too. The people I walked with at graduation this month, some of which are my teammates, are part of experiences I’ll always cherish.”
What lies ahead for Reed Williams?
“I am going to pursue the NFL because I’ll always regret it if I don’t,” he said. “If the NFL doesn’t happen, I have other great choices — graduate school and law school. I’ve thought about teaching at the collegiate level and coaching, too. I have good options, and this university has prepared me for those options.”
“WVU has been in my heart since I was a kid,” he added with a smile. “I’ve been a Mountaineer forever, and this has all been a dream come true.”