Williams prepares for future, stays in the present
Lewisburg Middle School's standout linebacker and running back Peyton Williams, who finished his 8th grade season with 750 yards on 47 attempts and 10 touchdowns, wants to be an SEC football player like his heroes Chris Booker and Dont'a Hightower.
Williams was recently named as one of the top 10 rising football stars in the country by youth1.com, has been featured in Youth Football Illustrated Magazine, and on ESPN 760 Radio.
It all started in second grade for Williams, who joined the Cornersville Youth Football League where he stayed until his 7th grade year when he transferred to LMS.
Williams' early influence came in 2005 when he met former Vanderbilt Commodore defensive end Chris Booker at a game in Nashville.
Booker took the youngster under his wing, feeding off Williams' presence and Booker would speak to him after the games.
"It was cool having a friend who played college football," said Williams. "He was my friend and he was not snobby or anything like that. I knew then that I could play college football. He opened my eyes that if I worked hard like him, I could do it."
Williams and Booker remain in touch through Facebook and in LMS's homecoming game two weeks ago, Williams wore a pair of gloves that Booker had given to him.
Before that, Williams and father Roger watched plenty of football on TV, but the younger Williams did not realize that you could go to college and play football and then get paid to play in the NFL.
After meeting Booker, the influence to play in the SEC became even more spirited and focused when he went to LMS and began to train in the same weight room as Hightower.
"I remember coach (Jeff) Morton told everybody, when we went in to the weight room in 7th grade for the first time, this is where Dont'a became a man," said Williams.
From that time on, Williams stepped up his rigorous physical workouts, including pulling around an old tractor tire full of bricks that his father bought.
Williams can power clean 185 pounds and has been clocked in the 40-yard dash at 4.74 seconds.
Williams never saw Hightower play in high school, but when Hightower went to Alabama, he watched him all the time even though his favorite team is UT.
"I want to go play for any SEC school," said Williams. "I look up to him (Dont'a), he is a good role model because he knew what he wanted, worked hard to get what he wanted, and made it happen."
Williams is also cousin to MCHS graduate Beau Fullerton, who went on to play for Tennessee Tech and was drafted by the New York football Giants in 2004.
Asked about the early exposure he is getting, Williams said, "I don't really pay much attention to it all, that is just on paper, I want to prove myself on the field."
Big challenge Williams has had plenty of exposure in his developing career with his biggest experience coming when he was chosen to play in the Tennessee Futures All-Star game and played linebacker against a team from Kentucky.
"The competition was huge, I felt like there is a mixture of players that I am good as and others that I have to get as good as through more hard work," said Williams.
He has also attended UT football camps where he has impressed many of the coaches.
Asked about moving up to the high school team, Williams said, "I want to help MCHS keep going and build on the resurgence they are in. I want to help them wherever they need me and will work as hard as I can."
Unsure whether his future is at linebacker or in the offensive backfield, Williams did not have a preference, but liked running back because it is exciting to score touchdowns, hearing the fans screaming, especially all the girls in the crowd.
Williams carries a 3.2 grade point average at LMS and his favorite subject is science. "I like animals and wildlife and that kind of stuff," said Williams, who likes to go down to his mother's pond with his sister and catch frogs and minnows and put them in buckets.
Note: On Thursday, Williams was notified that he had been selected to play in the Junior Academic All-Star Game on January 2, 2012 at Chase Field in Phoenix, AZ.
All participating athletes will also be recognized at halftime of the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl and march in the Fiesta Bowl Parade