“Honestly, it was one of my biggest dreams coming true,” said Kellen Williams, a 6-5, 302-pound fifth year senior offensive lineman for Alabama. Williams replaced Anthony Steen at right guard as the Crimson Tide took possession with eight minutes to play against Texas A&M at College Station. Bama drove 65 yards, taking 5:36 off the clock, and scoring a touchdown that turned out to be the difference in Bama’s 49-42 win over the Aggies.
Alabama improved to 2-0 and solidified its spot as the nation’s number one team going into Saturday’s game against Colorado State. Williams will be back in his familiar position as the back-up to Steen and to left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and right guard Arie Kouandjio and center Ryan Kelly, and perhaps even right tackle Austin Shepherd, although that has not been a spot where Williams has performed in the past.
Williams was prepared for his opportunity against the Aggies.
“Mentally, I was focused on the game,” he said. “Being on the sideline, you're watching a shootout. I was just like, 'Wow! This is an unbelievable game. I'm happy to be here in my role and cheering with my teammates.' Then Steen goes down with whatever he went down with and next I know I'm being called up.
“I run on the field and we run a couple of base run plays that did pretty good. We start opening it up a little more and we're driving down the field.
“That place was pretty electric. They're waving the towels and everything. You're in your stance and you're looking up and can't hear a thing. Honestly, it was one of my biggest dreams coming true, being a part of that. Being a part of that drive and scoring that touchdown, emotionally, it's been a long time coming. A lot of hard work and a lot of blood, sweat and tears and it was amazing to be a part of that.”
The end result of that final drive was A.J. McCarron throwing a five-yard pass to running back Jalston Fowler.
Williams said that staying in the game mentally on the sideline is “pretty tough, but it's a part of being here. There are a lot of great players and not everybody is going to get to play. When your time comes, you have to step up and perform. Just always paying attention to what's going on or somebody might get rolled up into. You always have to be on your 'A' game mentally or else you're going to be the idiot on TV getting screamed at by coach (Nick Saban) because you're not paying attention to the game.”
Although Williams might be known as a “journeyman” or “jack of all trades,” he has paid his dues. He was a right guard when he arrived, was back-up to William Vlachos in 2011, and was back-up at left tackle and left guard last year. “I got a real good understanding of the offense,” he said. Williams said he is more comfortable at guard than at tackle, where “you’re pretty much on an island. You don’t have a lot of help.”
He doesn’t go for the Barrett Jones comparison. Jones was an All-America lineman who played guard on the 2009 Bama national championship team, left tackle on the 2011 national championship team, and center on the 2012 national championship team.
“Barrett's a great player,” Williams said. “That's awesome I'm being compared, but I'm not nearly as good as Barrett. As far as my versatility goes, I'm buying into my role. Wherever the team needs me, I'll fill in. I don't have any preference.”
That doesn’t mean Williams was surprised to play well in what was essentially the winning touchdown drive.
“”Actually, I was pretty comfortable out there,” he said. “I wasn't nervous or anything. I've been in a couple games for mop up duty, but that was totally different than what I'm used to. I felt really calm and not anxious at all. I was like, 'You know what? I've been here long enough that I know what to do and how to do it. Now I just have to go out and perform.'”
Williams said the key was the offensive line having good communications. “I just think trusting each other and trusting Ryan Kelly, who's identifying the fronts and making the 'Mike' points for us. Everybody taking a second and listening to him and communicating it down. That's the best we've ever communicated. I've been in pretty big games. I've been to Baton Rouge and Auburn. Our communication down the line was awesome. We had guys moving their heads and talking. When I got in there, we didn't even miss a beat. It was an awesome thing.”
Williams has a reputation of bringing energy to the offense. He said what he feels a responsibility to do is “have positive energy.”
Part of that is with humor, although he says he’s “not like a standiup comedian. I’ll just say someting in the huddle like, ‘Man, I wish it was a little cooler out here,’ and everyone laughs.”
Williams is one of those who has nothing but good to say about Colorado State Head Coach Jim McElwain, who will be returning to Tuscaloosa with the Rams Saturday.
“Coach Mac was an unbelievable coach,” Williams said. “He helped me so much when I was playing center. Him and Coach Stoutland (former offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland). When I was the backup center, I would go in film room with (McElwain) and Stoutland and they would help me get a better understanding of the offense. That's why I'm at where I'm at right now. Those two took so much time with me when I was a young head and pulled me in there and coached me up.
Williams also has a memory of how McElwain used humor in his coaching.
“In camp two or three years ago, he brought in a dead fish and a picture of a Charlie Tuna fish. He said, 'We have too many dead fish in here' and he put up the dead fish. Then he goes, 'I want you to be like this guy' and he put up the picture of Charlie Tuna. Everybody broke out laughing. It was the goofiest picture I've ever seen. He's done funny stuff. It's going to be cool seeing him after the game.”