Humility befalls NU's Williams
April 22, 2002
Friday night, as Demorrio Williams thought about the day that would follow, he began to get nervous.
The kid from small-town Texas began to think of all the people that would be in the Memorial Stadium stands Saturday. He had played before 500, maybe even 600 people, one time for a junior college championship. But 31,000?
He began to think of how much he wanted to show his coaches, maybe even himself, that he could be a starting linebacker at Nebraska.
So the kid did what seemed natural. He prayed. He had a one-on-one with God.
With the Red-White game causing butterflies to flutter around in his stomach, Williams asked God to give him the strength to tackle the upcoming day. In his prayers, he said the glory would belong to God.
And so, on a day when the sky was dark and the weather grim with rain steadily flowing from the heavens, the light seemed to shine on the man wearing the white No. 7 jersey.
Williams was everywhere. The junior was breaking up option runs, tracking down fleet-footed running backs from behind and making Nebraska fans' mouths drop.
By day's end, NU fans were scratching their heads, reclaiming their No. 7 jerseys from the Salvation Army and asking, "Who's this kid?"
Who's this fireball whose sideline hit sent starting running back Dahrran Diedrick sprawling into the cheerleaders on a third-quarter option play?
Who's the kid who had 13, yes 13, tackles?
It's Demorrio. Nebraska's savior?
Spring games can have a way of making a player of mediocre standard into a deity for a day. See Bobby Newcombe's spring quarterback triumph of 1998.
Maybe it will be so with Williams, but Saturday, he was sugar and spice and everything nice.
His play was so good it prompted Coach Frank Solich to say, "He's all that he was hyped up to be coming out of junior college."
And this Demorrio kid - the kid who worked the oil fields in Texas growing up - he's got heart. Don't take my word for it. Take his.
"I haven't brought a lot of strength and size to the team, but I have brought size and a big heart," said the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder to the throng of Nebraska reporters crowded around him Saturday.
Case in point: On a Diedrick second-half touchdown run, Williams wasn't embarrassed to admit that Diedrick flat-out ran him over on the way to the end zone. That's what occasionally can happen when tackling running backs bigger than you.
But later in the day it would be the smaller Williams head-hunting Diedrick and laying him out on the east sideline.
"I'm always going to take abuse," Williams said. "On a play you might run me over, but on the next play, I'm going to come back."
Getting knocked down isn't scary to Williams. Not making the most of his opportunity at Nebraska is.
"I just wanted to put something on the coaches' mind that I can play at this level," Williams said. "The way I see it, my back is against the wall. I only have two years here, so I have to make the most of it. I have some big shoes to fill for this defense."
The kid shouldn't worry so much. Saturday, Defensive Coordinator Craig Bohl said, "He gives us some speed we haven't had in recent years."
As the mild-mannered Williams stood behind the podium answering questions in the South Stadium interview room, Bohl just leaned against the back wall and smiled like a proud papa.
"I just want to see this," he said.
And it really was quite a sight.
Williams, with every reason to act the big-timer after his day, couldn't stop acting as humble as a guy who just got home from the oil field in Texas.
He was the last Husker standing on Tom Osborne Field in a steady rain signing autographs for fans.
And it was Williams who humbly ended his day in the spotlight by saying, "This media thing is a big change for me. I'm not really used to this stuff."
After Williams was done at the podium, he began his walk out of the interview room.
But on his way out quarterback Jammal Lord stopped him, slapped hands, and said, "There's the man. Player of the game."
With the utterance of those words, Jammal became the second Lord at Williams' side Saturday.