Senior safety Sean Williams is the epitome of a Navy defensive captain: prepared, driven, focused, and motivating toward his teammates -- qualities that have been extra important through the Midshipmen’s uncommon 2018 season.
The Mids enter Saturday’s game against archrival Army at Lincoln Financial Field with a 3-9 record. Counting the Black Knights, nine of their opponents are going to postseason bowl games, including College Football Playoff semifinalist Notre Dame and Fiesta Bowl participant Central Florida.
“This has kind of been a surprise for our team,” Williams said at last week’s Army-Navy luncheon. “With it not going as well as we thought it would go, we just take the approach that every week is new. It’s just like if we were an undefeated team and you were trying to hold on to that, you’d have to delete the last week that you just played.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to focus on: Take what we did well from each game and go into the next game.”
The 6-foot-1, 197-pound Williams, from Memphis, Tenn., said he and his fellow upperclassmen have rallied around each other to make sure everyone stays positive.
“It’s just trying to be that example,” he said. “You realize your team will take the personality of the leader. Everything that we could ask of our younger guys or the guys around us, we want to see, we try to emulate it ourselves. That’s just how you approach it: Do the things you expect other people to do, and it makes it easier for them to follow.”
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said Williams has done “a great job of leading by example."
“Sean has been our leader,” he said. “He continues to lead and work hard in spite of the season, comes to work every day. He made honorable-mention all-league, a tough, ferocious competitor.”
Williams has shown leadership qualities since arriving at Annapolis. He started the season opener of his freshman year and played a total of 11 games, seeing most of his time on special teams. This is the third season that he is among the team’s top three tacklers. Saturday’s start against Army will be the 37th of his career.
Other trademarks of his play are his intensity and his ability to come up with turnovers. He is one of four FBS players who are tied for first place in forced fumbles, with five.
“Sometimes, it’s just luck, and luck is when preparation meets an opportunity,” Williams said. “So it’s preparing in practice, always going after the ball, and maybe stripping it here and there, repping that in practice. Every time you secure a tackle, you get an opportunity to strip it or you’re coming in second. It’s just doing the little things, and then just having the opportunity come.”
Williams traces his intensity to the days when he played little-league football in Memphis.
“I just rode that wave all the way through playing football, playing with attitude, playing very intense,” he said. “The personality, it’s hard to explain. It’s just something that’s been engraved in me since I was young. I haven’t lost it.”
That also applies to practice. Navy began workouts for Army last week, and there was no letup from Williams with his teammates.
“I practice the way I play, so it’s been very intense,” he said. “I think they were more looking out for me, trying to be smart with what’s going on. I’m appreciative that I can get back out there now and really get after it.”