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  • Ernie Samora, Staff Writer

Laying a foundation: Aric Williams’ plans for Willamette football

Coach Aric Williams. Photo from WU athletics website

After failing to find a conference victory in five seasons, fans' expectations for Willamette football have dwindled. In light of the recent departure of former head coach Isaac Parker, Willamette has hired a new head coach, Aric Williams, for the upcoming season. But will this change in leadership translate to a change on the field?

Williams has significant NCAA Division I and NFL on-field experience under his belt. After playing cornerback for Oregon State, he signed as a free agent to the Philadelphia Eagles, spent several years at NFL camps and even competed in NFL Europe. 

Most recently acting as defensive coordinator and linebacker coach at Montana Tech, Williams has served as an assistant coach at several DI universities. Considering his broad perspective in the sport, he feels good about his ability to improve Willamette football. He explained, "I've seen ... what the blueprint was to get certain programs turned around and get them on the right track. So I do have confidence that I can do that here.” This upcoming season will be his first time as a head coach. 

Williams has big plans for the ‘Cats, including a complete shift in the culture. “It’s going to be the foundation,” said Williams. Establishing a philosophy along with inspiring a mentality of discipline are his top priorities. “Discipline, to me, is the only shortcut.” Asking questions such as “Who are we?” and “What do we stand for?” establishes knowing and doing what’s right: a moral compass. Williams hopes this shift in team culture will lead to results in tough situations, both on and off the field. 

Part of that culture of discipline includes creating a voluntary football class which anyone on campus can sign up for. The class, currently ongoing, focuses on cardio, speed, conditioning and getting in shape, with the hopes of inspiring intrinsic motivation and discipline in all class participants. 

Recruiting is also a large focus for Williams. “I’m always recruiting,” he said. He's looking off campus at high schools, transfer students and junior colleges, but also recruiting on campus. Students all across Willamette may be considered, from athletes in other programs to non-collegiate athletes who have an interest in football. “However you identify as, if you’re the right fit for our football program and you can help us win and you fit into our culture and our character, come on and play!” As a sports writer, he even asked me if I had any interest in playing for the team.

Williams is emphasizing getting the team active in the community. Although he hasn’t been at Willamette long enough to begin community outreach, Williams has many volunteer ideas based on work he has done with past teams. “I want to be a positive fixture in every aspect of the community.”

“We [have] a lot of work to do,” said Williams. “Is it going to happen overnight? Probably not. Anything worth having … you gotta put the time and effort into getting that.” He recognizes that students may have doubts based on prior seasons of football, but he is confident the 2024 season will go differently and hopes students will continue to show up and support the team in the stands. “Our goal is to win.”

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