Oct. 5, 1999
by Chris Aguilar, Fresno State Media Relations
Amidst the Fresno State Football Team players practicing against a late-summer backdrop better made for relaxing than hard work, senior defensive back Payton Williams stands out.
Williams is a leader on the field. As a true freshman, he earned playing time, totaling eight tackles and one fumble recovery. As a sophomore he played in 11 games, starting twice. Last year, the Marino Valley, Calif., native was a starter in every game. Entering this season, Williams has a total of 56 unassisted and 63 assisted tackles. However, this is only a part the reason why he stands out in the crowd of Bulldog football players.
What makes Williams special is that he embodies the attributes of a student-athlete in football and academia. A National Merit Scholar finalist in high school, Williams continued the trend at Fresno State, being named a GTE Academic All-American last year and again earning a nomination this year. In May, Williams represented Fresno State at the NCAA Leadership Convention in Orlando, Fla.
"My mom is a teacher and my family has a strong military background, I suppose that?s where I get desire to succeed in school," Williams said. "My mom was always pushing us toward school and to take advantage of the opportunities we were given."
Williams, who took the LSAT last year, is interested in a career in law. Graduate school would be something new to the Williams family, whose values have led Payton to academic excellence.
"My education is very important to me and my family," Williams said. "Nobody in our family has ever gone straight through college. My mom worked and went to school a little at a time to get where she is. When the time came to go to school on a scholarship, there was no question I had to make the most of this opportunity."
Making the most of opportunities on and off the field has served Williams well at Fresno State, something head coach Pat Hill is very happy about.
"Payton Williams is not a vocal type of leader," Hill said. "He leads by example, both on the field and in the classroom. He is someone that our younger players can look at and see how things should be done."
Williams feels at ease assuming a leadership role on the 1999 Bulldog squad.
"All of the seniors last year and the seniors this year were and are very close," Williams said. "We are trying hard to establish a new tradition of winning here. That is a goal which carried over from last year and now we are just taking it to the next natural level, which is to win the Western Athletic Conference title and get into a bowl game this year."
This team has the potential to do just that, according to Williams.
"I really like the feel of this team," Williams said. "We have been close and lived through a lot together. We have classes together, we play together, we eat together and we hang out together. It?s that closeness which is the key to winning."
Williams would like to leave a legacy at Fresno State. Although modest about the mark he?s made, Williams says he would like to be remembered as "a good football player who made the most of his opportunities, a solid student and someone who respected his teammates and classmates."
Some lament the scholar-athlete is a thing of the past. In a day where athletes leave college early to go into a pro draft or get into trouble away from their respective sport, the image of the scholar-athlete has been tainted beyond repair. Payton Williams is perhaps the best argument, as well as an example, to those derogators.
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