Every athlete has their specific way to prepare for a game. Sometimes they might play a song that puts them in the zone, other times it is a quote or picture taped to the back of their locker that reminds them what they are working for.
For APSU’s Kentel Williams, he calls his mom.
Williams began playing football when he was four. Surrounded by sports since he was little, he always has had the outlet available that athletics provides. However, due to situations beyond their control, his family did not always get to experience it with him.
Williams’s mom spends her weekends working as an U.S. Cellular Call Center representative, making the 226-mile trek to Fortera Stadium a tough road to travel. Due to the pressure of providing for her two sons, the single mother rarely gets to see her youngest child play the sport he loves.
However, the Friday night lights battles and college football Saturdays almost did not happen for Williams.
“I missed a year around 8-years-old since I was not doing good in school,” Williams said. “I had to choose to change my surroundings and change my friends in order to get where I want to be.” As a young kid, Williams made big changes to follow his dream of being a professional athlete his mom was always in his corner.
Fast forward a few years, and Williams had become one the big players on the Knoxville Fulton football team. The Falcons are a six-time state championship team. During the APSU sophomore’s career at Fulton, the Falcons won three consecutive state championships with Williams playing in two of them.
“It is always been my dream to play in big games like that,” Williams said, “I try to give my all in those big games like that.”
In the wake of becoming the state champions a high school sophomore-aged Williams knew what exactly to do.
“I called my mom,” Williams said.
That celebration would become a mainstay focus regimen as the now collegiate running back made a transition to playing on Saturday afternoons away from home.
When Williams sits in his locker before a game he makes sure to always call his mom, and despite her busy work schedule, she is always ready to answer.
“When I talk to my mom before the game she is making sure I am focused,” Williams said with a laugh. “She tells me to go do what I can, help my team and keep a cool head.”
Williams is close with his mom. Growing up in Knoxville, Williams looked up to two people for guidance, his mom and his brother. His father was in and out of jail.
“I looked up to my older brother,” Williams said, “I was always around him, so he was a role model to me.”
For the young boy playing on Knoxville city streets, his mom has always represented one thing to him: strength.
“My mom had my brother when she was young, then she had me and we were not the wealthiest family,” Williams said. “I looked at my mom to find strength and to get past adversity.”
“My mom showed me how to keep composure and to keep going, even when facing the tough situations, we were in,” Williams said.
Williams’s mom barely gets the opportunity to see him play at APSU, but when he played basketball at Fulton she was in the stands at every opportunity she had available.
“If it was a close game she would be moving around yelling at the coaches, yelling at me and yelling at the other players,” Williams reflected.
On Saturday, Sept. 16, William’s mom got the opportunity to see her son play in red and white. Williams averaged over 25 yards a carry on eight carries as the Govs snapped the longest active losing streak in the nation with a 69-13 win over Morehead State.
Following Williams’s record breaking performance, his mom told him how proud she was of how far he has come, and what he has accomplished.
“My mom has always been my motivation,” Williams said, “knowing my situation growing up and seeing how she worked hard, I have always used her as my motivation.”
For William’s life his mother had stood behind him and supported him. Even when money was tight and adversity seemed to great, she found ways to support her sons. For Williams that has meant the world, and he knows how he would want to thank her.
“I want to buy her a house,” Williams said. “We have been through so much I just want to buy her a house.”
Williams finished his sophomore season at APSU with 674 yards and two touchdowns. The soon-to-be-junior is still chasing his childhood playground dream. One, to be a professional athlete, and the other, to provide for his mom.