Shawn Williams has found a place on the football field in Athens – and a best friend in Jordan Love.
Football has not always been the focal point of Shawn Williams’ life.
During middle and high school, he spent his time memorizing a playbook and hitting wide receivers crossing the middle of the field in the fall. But in the spring, he traded his shoulder pads for a bat and glove.
Balancing his athletic commitments was nothing new for Williams.
From age seven until middle school, Williams juggled baseball and football, and even threw basketball into the mix.
“My whole life just been about sports. I was always going to do something sports-related — 20 hours out of the day,” Williams said.
Eventually the Demascus native came to the conclusion that basketball wasn’t his “thing,” eliminating an option for his future while making his decision between baseball and football that much tougher.
Throughout high school, Williams weighed the different paths he could take after graduation — go to college and play football or skip out on getting his degree to pursue a career in the major leagues.
His options made it “really hard” for the two-sport athlete to decide which was his favorite, and which he wanted to pursue after high school.
A four-year starter at Early County High School, Williams played both ways on the gridiron, starting at safety for the Bobcats while contributing to the offense as a wide receiver.
His coaches noticed his talent as a freshman, planting the seed in Williams’ head about the possibility of playing for the Bulldogs at the next level.
“And one of my coaches said, ‘He’s going to Georgia,’” Williams said. “I was like, ‘I don’t even think about football like that.’”
But that seed began to grow with a single trip to Athens with his best friend at the time.
Williams said everyone he was around growing up “loved Georgia” and when he was a sophomore, he went to his first game at Sanford Stadium with his best friend’s family.
After returning home from the weekend trip, Williams saw himself beginning to turn his focus more toward football after watching Georgia play between the hedges that Saturday.
“So next thing I know, I’m just working harder and harder at football,” Williams said.
Williams’ junior year brought about more realization that the safety could go to the next level on a football scholarship, furthering his dilemma. And with a game against Thomasville marked on Williams’ calendar, the recruiting process with Georgia was set in motion.
“We played Thomasville and [offensive coordinator Mike] Bobo went to Thomasville High School and I guess he recruited that area,” Williams said. “And I just played my best against Thomasville thinking that maybe he would be there and see me. It came around that they did. They recruited me. I knew that this was where I wanted to come.”
Despite having committed to Georgia in April of his junior year, the phone calls from Major League Baseball teams began. But an injury brought the phone calls to a halt, and Williams’ decision was ultimately made for him.
“I coulda went and played pro baseball, but I tore my MCL like the last game [of the season] so most of them started backing off,” Williams said. “My mom really wanted me to go to school and so I just decided that I really just wanted to play football.”
And that’s what he has done since arriving in Athens. Williams has seen action in every game since the start of his freshman year, and has tallied 14 tackles through Georgia’s first five games of this season.
Cornerback Jordan Love said Williams’ style of play is indicative of where he grew up, and despite his quiet demeanor he makes his mark on the field.
“I see him like one of those old fashioned players,” Love said. “He’s just real dirty and gritty. I always joke around with him because I’m like, ‘He’s a country boy.’ He comes from the country, like flip tires and wrestles alligators. That’s where I think he gets it from.”
Secondary coach Scott Lakatos said Williams is a “pleasure to be around” and is a very coachable kid.
“He’s kinda quiet, but like everybody else he’s got his moments,” Lakatos said. “When he needs to be he’ll get his point across. He’s doing a pretty decent job of communicating on the field. Sometimes when guys are quiet in their everyday lives, at [the safety] position, you kinda have to be more outspoken.”
Williams said he has no idea what the future holds for him, and is taking what life throws at him each day.
“I just practice with pride,” Williams said. “Hard work and never quit. I’m always hustling trying to get somewhere, trying to be the best.”
After Love had surgery on his foot in the spring, the first teammate to visit him was Williams.
That simple gesture sparked a friendship between the injured cornerback and Williams.
“He was the first one to really come see me [after surgery] and that really left an impression on me,” Love said. “I was like, ‘He must really care about me.’ We’ve just always been close since then.”
Williams and Love both said they found a mutual trust in one another, and are now attached at the hip.
“I would definitely say Shawn is my best friend on the team. I can trust him with anything,” Love said. “He can trust me with anything. Anything he needs he can let me know and I’ll get it for him.”
Williams’ trust in Love only deepened after one tragic day this summer.
On July 13, Williams’ home in Demascus burned down, leaving his family with nothing and forcing them to move in with Williams’ grandmother.
Known for being quiet, Williams was tight-lipped about the house fire, but Love could tell something was weighing on his best friend’s mind.
“I could tell something was wrong with him, but it was just like a one day thing,” Love said. “The next day, you couldn’t really tell anything was wrong with him. But he was definitely down for that one day but then you could tell he was completely changed.”
In the aftermath of the fire, Love and his family showed Williams support in face of adversity. The ties between Love and Williams grew stronger as their families took to each other further — the mothers of the two boys now speak on the phone regularly and the families get together on game days.
“It means a lot because I think everybody needs somebody that they can trust no matter what the situation is,” Williams said. “What happened to me over the summer, they was the first ones there. Every time I looked around, they was like, ‘If you need anything, anything let us know.’”
Love said he and Williams are emotional support systems for one another while away from home.
“Usually we can tell when each other is mad,” he said. “We only get upset about something usually for like one day because we’re cheering each other up. Just joking around [we’ll say], ‘Just get over it. Stop acting like a baby.’ We usually get over things real fast.”
In their spare time, Love and Williams go on “man dates” regularly, going out to eat, going to see movies and playing video games — mainly “Call of Duty.”
“We always do everything together,” Williams said. “We try to be right there by each other.”
The two most recently saw “Devil” in theaters and bet each other on who they thought the killer was.
“I ended up winning, by the way,” Williams said.
The 19-year-olds said their bond stretches beyond the football field and will last longer than their years in Athens.
“We always talk about what we’re gonna do after football,” Love said. “We always joke like, ‘We’re gonna move in this neighborhood. We’re gonna have a house right next to each other. Our kids are gonna grow up together.’ It’s definitely gonna last past football.”