URBANA (WCIA) — Bennett Williams’ formula for success is simple.
“I think being smart in this game is the way to win.”
And smart is exactly how people describe the sophomore safety who had several Ivy League offers out of St. Francis High School.
“He’s a special young man,” Illinois safeties coach Gill Byrd said. “He’s very smart, very intelligent.”
“That’s the main thing that I pride myself on as a football player,” Williams said. “Yeah, I mean, I’m not going to run the fastest 40 or jump the highest, but knowing the game is where I get my advantage.”
It’s the reason Williams made such an impact as a true freshman. The Campbell, California native finished the 2017 season with a team-high three interceptions. He had seven starts at safety and named a Freshman All-American.
“I expected the most for myself,” Williams said. “I came in thinking I’m going to start, ready to play right from the bat. It worked out well for me.”
Now Williams is on track to become a four-year starter for the Illini. His experience last year will go a long way in helping the young Illinois defense that features just one senior.
“He can think off the run,” said Byrd. “A lot of players can’t think on the run. Some players are mechanical. They may know it on paper, but when everything starts moving they can’t make the necessary adjustments. Bennett has a way of being able to do that, be relaxed, be under control even in a seemingly stressful situation.”
The Illini’s secondary ranked sixth in the Big Ten in pass defense. With another year under his belt, Williams says he hopes to help put Illinois in the top tier of the conference.
“What does that mean unless I produce?” WIlliams added. “It’s really about the team for me. If I’m helping the team win, then that’s all that really matters.”