Originally created 10/11/96

Josey's Williams not playing to his potential



Which Shaun Williams will it be tonight, showing up for unbeaten Josey against Burke County?

Will it be the Williams in No. 1-ranked Josey's first two victories - the bruising 6-foot-6, 250-pound nightmare at offensive tackle that has every school in the SEC beating down his door?

Or will it be good old, mild-mannered Shaun, the straight-A student, Josey's Mr. Nice Guy who plays better than most on any given day, but has not yet lived up to his lofty standards?

In tonight's huge Region 3-AAA game in Waynesboro, against a very good Burke County (3-1, 2-0) team that loves the idea of being the first team to beat Josey (4-0, 2-0) in 19 games, Williams says he's ready to answer the call.

"Yeah, I'm disappointed in what I've done so far," Williams says. "I know everyone's disappointed in me, because the expectations are so high. I want to change that against Burke. I want to go out there and play the best game I've ever played."

Josey head coach John Starr knows how capable the 17-year-old star is of fulfilling that prophecy.

Over the past three seasons, Starr has seen Williams in that zone. With great pleasure, he recalls nights when Williams was hell bent on dominating his unfortunate defensive opponents.

He wonders if that Williams will show up tonight.

"He's a guy who gets the job done, but he should be dominating every football game he plays," Starr says. "He's a good high school lineman who could be a great high school lineman and college player. I've seen him go out there some days and beat people down. Some days, he doesn't show up. I don't think it's a lack of intensity, because I know he cares. Maybe he doesn't know how good he really is. Maybe he's just too nice a guy."

For establishing a level of excellence his teammates and coaches have come to expect, Williams has no one to blame but himself.

Last season as a junior, Williams showed the first flashes of his great promise, when he combined with current teammates John Griffin and Jean-Paul Martin to propel Josey to the promised land - a Class AAA championship. In the preseason, he showed up in the best shape of his life, ready to emerge as a top prospect.

Even without Williams at his best, Josey keeps on winning. Griffin, a three-year starter at guard, sophomore tackle Earnest Tate and senior first-year starter at guard Brandon Tull, have cleared the way for the Eagles' once-in-a-lifetime collection of talent to again put up huge numbers.

As for Williams, this has been the season of his discontent.

"I don't know what's wrong," the senior says. "I know I should be doing better. Look at the first four games. The first two, I played great. The last two, I was all right, but nothing special. It's not like I'm not trying. There ain't no pressure. I'm trying to figure out what's wrong."

Griffin, the heart of the Josey front, says Williams has not been a disappointment. Not at all.

"None of us are where we want to be yet," said Griffin, whose 6-foot, 185-pound frame is the only thing that may keep him from a Division I college career.

"Shaun's a great player, whether or not he's playing his best. To all our credit, it's been really tough this year. Everyone's gunning for us. We're everyone's big game. It can wear you down."

For now, Starr too will gladly take Williams, as is. He knows he's better at half speed than most at full tilt. But he can't help but hope the real Williams finally takes a stand.

"I guess I expect too much from him," says Starr. "We need him to be destroying people on the line of scrimmage like he's capable of. He can do that every night. He's that good."

Fully aware of his potential, Williams promises this:

"When I'm on the field, physically, it's like I'm a man playing against boys. But I have something to prove. This is the big game. This is the one where I have to prove I can play like a man."