By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
You know how at Disney there are those express passes that allow you to move ahead to the front of the line? Well, Elaine Williams has herself an express pass to sainthood — she’s raising five boys.
Elaine and Scott Williams have a lot to be proud of, though. They’ve had to endure some broken windows along the way, but their boys are turning out just fine. Well, perhaps that’s an understatement. Scooter and Zach both were outstanding students and athletes at Ocean City High School, and middle child Nick is keeping that tradition going. He’s been a key contributor to the Red Raiders’ football, wrestling and track teams, and is one of the school’s top students and a member of the National Honor Society.
Nick, a senior, said it’s not easy keeping up high grades — especially considering he is taking classes such as accounting, AP calculus and AP probability and statistics — when he’s competing in three sports. But, his competitive nature on the field and mat carry over to the classroom, as does his ability to manage his time.
“It’s definitely a mindset. Coming home from a sport at 7 p.m., the last thing on your mind is homework. But you just have to ask yourself, in the long run, how is this going to affect me? That’s what I do every night, just sit down, concentrate, do my homework. I have a routine every night. I come home, get a shower, eat dinner and sit down and do my homework. I try not to waste any time,” Nick said. “I think a lot of that comes from my parents. Academics always comes first, and it’s good that my coaches understand that, too. But some of it is on me. You’re parents can’t help you get through high school.”
Red Raiders football coach Kevin Smith said Nick’s lasting legacy at the school will be his leadership. He helped take a rebuilding program and turn it into a contender because he did all the little things coaches ask of upperclassmen. He was there in the weight room during the offseason and he was a position captain as a tight end. He has set a great example for some of the younger players on the team, as well as younger brothers Louie, who is a freshman, and Sam, a seventh-grader.
“Nick is the same kid 24/7. He’s quiet, he’s steady, he’s dependable. I know he’s going to be there and he’s going to be paying attention, and when the test rolls around he’s going to be prepared. And he’s like that on the football field as well,” said Smith, who teaches Nick during his AP government class. “It’s always useful to be able to look at Nick as an example to all the other kids and say here’s a kid who is doing it exactly the way we want him to be doing it. Nick absolutely makes the most out of his natural abilities because his work ethic is so good. As a coach, you love to have kids like that because you’re always going to have kids on the other end of the spectrum who have a lot of talent but aren’t doing as much as they can to develop it.”
“Coach Smith just kept telling us we had to go hard in the weight room in the offseason,” Nick said. “We had competitions to see who could out-lift each other. When the season came, our strength and mindset showed. We practiced hard, and everybody working together was great.”
That kind of grinder mentality has carried over to the wrestling team. Nick took his junior year off from wrestling, but has come back this year with a vengeance and is looking to place at districts for the first time. He’s also helped the Red Raiders — predicted to be in a rebuilding year — get off to an 8-5 start.
“I worked out every day my junior year and got a lot stronger, and with the strength came confidence,” Nick said. “I’m going into these matches with a lot of confidence, and I think that’s what I was lacking freshman and sophomore year. My freshman year I was 130 pounds, and now I’m 170 pounds and wrestling kids who are 10 pounds heavier than me.”
When you grow up with four brothers, competition comes naturally. Whether it’s in sports or in the classroom, Nick said he has a burning desire to be No. 1.
“For football, coach Smith always told us that he knows nobody likes running, but your mindset should be that you want to be first. Everything you do, you should want to be first,” he said. “And I’m like that in school. When a teacher hands back a test, I want to be the one with the best grade. I definitely go into school wanting to be the best, that’s just my mindset. Grades are on the school website, so the kids in the high level honors classes definitely keep track of it. I probably look at my grades at least once every day.”
Smith said he marvels sometimes at how some of his players are so successful in the classroom despite the demands their athletics come with.
“A kid like Nick, or Andrew Donoghue or Danny Walsh, they are carrying three or four AP classes. You can’t waste time, obviously. You have to work through study hall, you have to be disciplined when you get home. Sometimes, I think to myself how much pressure is on these kids, but they handle it well. And organization is the key,” Smith said. “There is so much pressure on kids because colleges are so expensive now. There’s a lot of pressure on kids to get scholarships, whether it be athletic or academic. That idea that kids today aren’t like they used to be is such a bogus idea.”
Smith said the credit for the success of the Williams boys at Ocean City goes back to Elaine and Scott.
“Nick has great parents. He has a very structured home and older brothers who provide a great example for him. He’s a good leader in the weight room. He isn’t a rah-rah guy, but he does all the little things well. He’s humble and leads by example,” Smith said. “His dependability, as a coach it was always so nice to know I didn’t ever have to worry about my tight end. You forget about how easy it is to coach a kid like Nick until you’re coaching a kid who’s not like him.”
Nick said he’s narrowed his college choices down to five schools, with Salisbury University in Maryland as his leading choice at the moment. He said he’ll be studying accounting, and hasn’t closed the book on the idea of possibly playing college football. As his days at Ocean City wind down, he said what he’ll miss most is those offseason weight room sessions.
“I love in the offseason just lifting with the team,” Nick said. “Every day I would look forward to that, just being able to bond with my teammates. I always felt stronger when everybody was there cheering me on, when you get that (personal record). I love that.”
When asked which is better, acing a class or crossing the goal line, Nick said that was a difficult question to answer.
“In the long run, getting an A in a class. I know I’m not going to the NFL,” he said. “But on that Friday night, scoring a touchdown — I remember scoring a touchdown in the Cedar Creek game and that was crazy.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN