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Cotey: Rough start doesn't negate Williams' potential

In his first high school start, replacing the all-state but injured Christian Green in short notice, with his famous NFL dad, former Bucs hero Doug Williams, watching off on the side, Tampa Catholic's D.J. Williams stepped into the fire Friday night.

He fumbled his first snap. Threw woefully short on his last fourth-down pass.

In between, he played like anyone might in his first varsity start. He showed flashes of brilliance, when those flashes weren't headlights and he wasn't dashing around like a deer.

"He's doing alright,'' Doug Williams said, right after halftime.

It was 9-6, and the Crusaders were losing, and that would be the final score. But at that moment, there was hope.

"You gotta remember,'' Doug Williams said, "He's only 16. Just turned 16 this week. So he's not just a junior, he's a young junior.''

There is a world of expectations crammed under those shoulder pads, playing here, in this town that his Daddy helped put on the football map.

If his son was nervous leading up to his start, Doug didn't know it. He said the two rarely talk about football in that way. D.J.'s typical response when asked how practice is "it went all right.''

Doug hangs back, off to the side, arms folded over a gray Buccaneer windbreaker, grumbling about a call here or there but choosing to keep his distance.

"I'm not hoping that he's out here playing for me. I'm not one of those dads,'' Doug said. "He's playing for himself.''

D.J. Williams remains a young, unproven, raw talent who, truth be told, is probably not ready to be a starter just yet.

"It's absolutely (unfair to load him up with those expectations),'' said Tampa Catholic coach Bob Henriquez, whose team is a surprisingly, but not terribly concerning, 0-2.

"His dad is going to be a Hall of Famer. At the end of the day, you saw D.J.'s potential, but potential means he hasn't done anything yet. We've just gotta keep working with him. The good thing is, I haven't seen him make the same mistake twice.''

He'll learn, from mistakes like his fourth-quarter fumble. He took his eye off the snap because he was overanxious to pull off a big play. He'll learn, from passes like the final two he threw, to settle in before throwing the ball too long, then too short. He'll learn, by watching Green when he returns to his starting job.

"He's got a little work to do,'' Doug Williams said. "I notice he's holding the ball a little too long out there. But that's just experience. He's got to play, and he'll get better.''

As if it wasn't already difficult enough, Williams had to endure a quarter's worth of a driving rainstorm, though it should be noted when the weather turned bad he hung on to the ball just like his daddy did in that 3-0 deluge of a playoff game against Kansas City years ago.

Williams almost pulled out a victory. He'll surely remember how close he came. The fumbles, the passes that were off-target, the potential gamebreakers he couldn't quite pull off.

One day, though.

"Overall, he's very raw and inexperienced and he left a couple of plays out there on of the field,'' Henriquez said. "I feel like I'm talking about Jeff Garcia. Overall though, I thought he showed a lot of poise.''

In his first high school start, D.J. Williams stepped into the fire, and made mistakes on his first and last plays.

In between, he learned how to be a better quarterback.

Cotey: Rough start doesn't negate Williams' potential 09/12/08 [Last modified: Saturday, September 13, 2008 12:09am]

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