Every week, The Herald will spotlight a different football player from the Tri-County area. Last week, The Herald spoke to Chandler Kryst of Coastal Carolina.
Malik Williams, a former quarterback at Chester and now a wide receiver at Appalachian State, had a career high in receiving yards in his team’s win on Saturday over UNC-Chapel Hill.
The junior notched six receptions for 76 yards, the longest reception being 43 yards. By the game’s end, the Mountaineers had earned their first win over a Power Five conference opponent since 2007 — the year they orchestrated the biggest upset in college football history against Michigan.
In a phone interview on Wednesday afternoon, Williams opened up about his progress on the gridiron, his late introduction to football and his favorite moment as a Chester Cyclone.
Zietlow: Jumping right into it: How is your season going?
Williams: Pretty good, really. I mean, we’re 3-0, looking to be 4-0 this week. I’m doing better than last year. More receptions, getting the ball more and just trying to score more touchdowns. So it’s going pretty good.
Zietlow: What was the celebration like last weekend?
Williams: It was just expected for us, really. It wasn’t an upset for them. I mean, we knew what we had to do, and we just wanted it more, so I mean, it was good for us and to just get it for the seniors.
Zietlow: I know what you mean, I think, but paint the picture for me. What do you mean when you say it’s “expected?”
Williams: It’s just the last three years, when I wasn’t here and they lost to Tennessee and when I got here my freshman year and we lost to Wake Forest, and coming right back, we lost to Penn State. I mean, we just had to get one of those games.
So when I say “expected,” our coaches just drilled it in our heads, and we knew, “This is what we had to do to beat these guys.”
Zietlow: I talked to Chester football head coach Victor Floyd, and he said he took you off the basketball court and that you only played football for two years.
Williams: Yep. I didn’t focus on football that much, going into high school. It was just basketball, basketball and school. And my junior year (of high school), I just came on the football field, and I knew he was a good coach because he coached my brother (Neil), so he just taught me.
Then, when we had our first meeting, he just asked, ‘Who wants to be quarterback?’ And it was like me and four other guys, and I just kept working at it. Then, my senior year, I was moving from quarterback to a little bit of receiver at times, and just kept working at both of them.
Zietlow: OK. So he knew your brother. He didn’t just randomly pluck you out of the gym like an apple. He had an idea of your ability by way of knowing your brother.
Williams: Yeah, I mean, he knew of my brother’s work ethic, so then, he just figured that Malik’s got to be the same way… (Coach) helped me get here, helped me become a great football player. Well, I’m still learning, but he really helped me out.
I try to talk to him every weekend before every game and just wish him good luck. He’ll text me, “Good luck,” before every game, so I mean, we still have that connection. Like he’s still my coach. I still call him, “Coach,” whenever we talk on the phone.
Zietlow: Wait, so back up a little bit. You touched on this story about how junior year, you wanted to go out for the football team and said you wanted to be QB. Was it an interest meeting? Take me through that story again.
Williams: It was right before football started my junior year. All the returners had come back already, and the quarterback had just left, so everyone was like, “Malik, you need to come out there.” I went out to the meeting, and he just asked, “Who’s trying to be our quarterback?” and me and three other dudes went up to the front of the room.
I went in there knowing I wanted to be the quarterback. I played it in middle school, but it was only for like one year. But when Coach Floyd came back, he looked into it and knew I played, and that’s when it started building up and getting where I am now.
Zietlow: That’s kind of wild. Well, how has the transition been — from changing positions to leaving Chester and being in Boone?
Williams: (Laughs.) It’s different up here. The weather: It’s cold. It’s different. But the transition? It was simple, but it was a lot to learn, really. These older guys, I took their coaching and they just really helped me. It wasn’t that hard. I knew I could do it. I just had to put my mind to it.
Zietlow: Obligatory local paper question: What’s your favorite moment playing sports growing up?
Williams: Oh wow. I want to say that one is the Lancaster game. I think it was my junior year, and I think we were pushed back on the five-yard line. A minute left. We drove down the field, and I want to say that we kicked a field goal to win the game, and I mean, that was just amazing for us.
It was my first year at quarterback, so it helped me out and just told me, “I could really do this.”
Zietlow: That’s awesome, man. Thank you for your time. Is there anything you want to leave me with?
Williams: Nothing really, man. Y’all just keep looking out for Chester this year. They’re trying to make a repeat, so I just wanted to wish them good luck and tell them to keep going.
Tri-County natives in college
B.T. Potter and Derion Kendrick: The two South Pointe alumni, per a tweet from the Clemson Twitter account, earned recognition for their academic achievement last week.
Both are having their share of success on the football field as well. Potter, the team’s starting kicker, is 20-for-20 on extra points and 5-for-7 on field goals, his longest being from 51 yards out. Kendrick has accumulated seven tackles on the year and is the team’s starting punt returner.
Eli Adams: South Pointe alum Eli Adams is in his sophomore year at Virginia Tech. The defensive lineman earned his first start this season, playing in all three games, and has notched 10 total tackles.
Skyler Delong: Skyler Delong, a sophomore punter out of Nation Ford High School, is the starting punter for Alabama and has punted six total times for an average of 35.2 yards per kick.
Tri-County natives the NFL
Mason Rudolph: The Steelers quarterback and Northwestern alum earned his first start last week against the San Francisco 49ers. He recorded 14 completions on 27 passes, 174 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the loss.
Jadeveon Clowney: Jadeveon Clowney earned one tackle in his team’s loss to the Saints this week.
Cordarrelle Patterson: Cordarrelle Patterson is now in his seventh season in the NFL and his first with the Chicago Bears. So far this season, the receiver has notched two receptions for nine yards.