By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports
Ruston High School’s defensive coordinator entered the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame last weekend.
Although Kyle Williams has been successful in that post since he came back to his hometown, it obviously was what he accomplished in 13 NFL seasons, in four years at LSU, and in his own playing career with the Ruston Bearcats that earned his spot in the LSHOF Class of 2022.
Now, he’s paying back that success and investing in the future as an assistant coach for the Bearcats. Williams made sure to thank his coaches, from his junior high days forward, for their impact on him and thousands of other kids, and said those coaches have inspired him.
“The only reason I’m coaching is because of the tremendous impact coaches had on me,” said Williams. “That, and we have five kids who are going to be coming through Ruston High School over the next 15 years, and I’m gonna be able to keep an eye out. I don’t plan on doing anything else for quite a while.
“But truly, the chance to develop young people, work alongside some fine people and excellent coaches, and win some football games along the way is a wonderful experience for me.”
Williams, who was the Class 5A Defensive MVP in 2001 at RHS, was heavily recruited. But it became clear that he was bound for Baton Rouge.
“You’ve got (LSU head coach) Nick Saban and (defensive line coach) Pete Jenkins sitting in your living room, and Coach Saban isn’t letting you consider any other choice. He’s saying, ‘Kyle, you know you could go someplace else, but with the other players we have, we’re gonna win championships. We’re gonna beat everybody else, you know. You need to be with us at LSU.’
“And standing behind him is my Mom, and she’s saying not so softly, ‘YES. Yes!’ It was kinda clear cut what I needed to do,” said Williams on stage in last Saturday’s induction ceremony. “And it was the best decision.”
As he left Ruston for Baton Rouge, Williams carried a sense of responsibility that he shared with the dozens of classmates, family, friends and coaches who attended the induction.
“I want you all to know. It was very, very important for me to represent you extremely well,” he said.
Mission accomplished. In his sophomore year, the Tigers won the 2003 national championship. They kept winning and he earned All-America honors as a defensive tackle in his senior season, was a fifth-round NFL Draft pick, and immediately established himself as one of the league’s better interior defenders. Williams won Pro Bowl honors six times in his 13-year stay in Buffalo.
Williams’ dorm roommate in Baton Rouge? A rival from his high school days, and another hugely successful NFL star, offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, from West Monroe. Both kept their roots at home. Williams and Whitworth played golf earlier last week and stay in close contact.
Home is where the heart is for both. Williams said sharing the LSHOF festivities with his wife Jill, a Baton Rouge native, and their five kids was a joy.
“It’s been great. The best thing has been the opportunity to share it with my kids. They’ve been able to run around and enjoy all the events, and also enjoy some of the success that brought us here.
“They experienced our days in Buffalo. They were glued into the NFL side of things, but when we do go to Baton Rouge, they see pictures and an All-America listing and the national championship trophy and they’re getting an understanding of those days when Jill and I met,” he said. “This weekend adds to their appreciation and that’s been wonderful.”
Contact Doug at DougIreland@LaSportsHall.com
Photo by CHRIS REICH, LSWA