Using Varied Experience to Emerge as a Top Defender, Tri-Captain Williams Primed to Lead PU Football to Glory
SAFETY NET: Princeton University star senior safety and tri-captain Dorian Williams, center, poses with fellow captains, senior quarterback Chad Kanoff, left, and senior running back Joe Rhattigan. The trio of standouts will be looking to come up big when Princeton kicks off its 2016 campaign by hosting Lafayette on September 17. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
Dorian Williams learned the ropes from two different spots on the field during his first two seasons with the Princeton University football team.
As a freshman in 2013, Williams played at nickel linebacker, making 43 tackles with two sacks and an interception as he got on the field mainly in passing situations.
A year later, he moved into the starting lineup as a safety, totaling 76 tackles with one interception.
With that varied experience as a foundation, Williams, a 6’0, 210-pound native of Streetsboro, Ohio, emerged as one of the top defensive players in the Ivy League last fall with 91 tackles, one short of the league high, earning second-team All-Ivy honors in the process.
“Playing at safety and having a year under my belt and being able to capitalize off it, that was awesome,” said Williams, reflecting on his junior season which saw him get chosen as the recipient of the program’s Poe-Kazmaier Trophy, the top award given to a Princeton football player.
“First learning the defense more and knowing where I need to be, I was able to see where other things are and how it all fits together. Coach (Jim) Salgado always says once you understand what you are doing, you are able to play a lot faster. You are just playing, not thinking.”
After playing well early last fall in getting out of the gate at 4-0, the Tigers sputtered down the stretch ending up at 5-5 overall and 2-5 Ivy.
“We had a great start and then we end up losing four of the last five games so I think one of the big focuses this year is finishing,” said Williams.
“Our motto this year is finish plus two so you finish and then you keep going because we lost four games within one score. It is something that we have been focusing on a lot this year and something that we want to capitalize on, just finishing.”
For Williams, it is special to be finishing his career as a tri-captain for the 2016 Princeton squad, being chosen for the post along with classmates, quarterback Chad Kanoff, and running back Joe Rhattigan.
“I really think it is an honor; Princeton has such a historical background so when you get voted captain, people do look up to you,” said Williams.
“You are in a special club; it is awesome. You do have a lot of responsibility. It takes some getting used to sometimes, people come over to you and ask what do we have to do right now.”
While Williams has displayed his leadership through his play on the field, he is speaking up more as a captain.
“I am more verbal, I like to talk a lot on the field,” said Williams. “Even if someone already makes a call, I just re-echo it and make sure that everybody is understanding. I do lead by example but I think talking and being able to be present just helps out.”
Princeton head coach Bob Surace noted that Williams has been setting a good example since he joined the program, quickly rising up the depth chart.
“From day one, he was different; by this point in camp, he was starting at the nickel,” said Surace.
“He was arguably the best rookie in the league that year and he comes out and he is All-Ivy as a sophomore. As a junior, he was close to being the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.”
As Williams gears up for his senior year, he likes the upbeat mentality he is seeing from the team in preseason.
“I think camp has been going really, really good, I think the guys have a lot more energy this year,” said Williams.
“There is a different focus, there is a different feel. People are more bought in this year. Obviously 10-0 is the goal for everybody, the Ivy League championship is the goal every year. I think people are really, really buying into that.”
In Williams’ view, the Tiger defense could be a real strength of the team this fall.
“I think the whole unit and our class, in particular, is very close,” said Williams.
“We have a lot of upperclassmen on that defense. Right now, we are communicating a lot. We talk a lot, we bond a lot so our defense is coming together. It doesn’t seem like it is a new defense; it has been together for a while. If you know your techniques, you can play fast. One thing we always break out to is rock solid; it just a foundation thing you build on. Once you are rock solid and together, there is nothing that can beat that. I think that is our approach to the season.”
Williams and his teammates will be looking to get off to a fast start as Princeton hosts Lafayette (1-1) on September 17 in its season opener.
“Just starting two weeks later than everybody is tough, you are watching games and you want to be on the field like everyone else,” said Williams.
“I am excited. We have our home opener; it is going to be a night game. I am looking forward to it. We are just ready to play; we are itching to get on the field.”