By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa running back Gavin Williams answered all sorts of questions from the media on Tuesday.
He was asked about the challenge of replacing Tyler Goodson in the backfield.
He was asked about the competition at quarterback between Spencer Petras, Alex Padilla and Joey Labas.
He was asked about his pass-catching skills, and about what he hopes to accomplish during spring practice from an individual standpoint.
He was asked how he has benefitted from starting in the Citrus Bowl.
He was also asked how his running style compares to Goodson’s style.
And he was asked about last season and if losing the final two games is helping to motivate the players during spring practice.
Williams spent more than 30 minutes answering questions as best he could.
But the final question he was asked had nothing to do with Hawkeye football.
I know that for certain because I asked it.
Williams was about to leave when I asked him about the late, great Jim Williams, who is no relation.
I was curious to hear what Gavin Williams had to say about one of the greatest football coaches in state history.
Jim Williams passed away on Dec. 29th, 2021 at the age of 91, and just three days before Iowa faced Kentucky in the 2022 Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.
Gavin Williams only spent one year around Jim Williams after having transferred from Southeast Polk to West Des Moines Dowling Catholic prior to his senior year of high school in 2019.
But that was enough time for Gavin Williams to realize that he was in the presence of a coaching legend.
Jim Williams built Dowling into a perennial powerhouse in the late 1960s and the program has ranked among the best since then, winning 10 state titles since 2000.
He left Dowling after the 1975 season to coach the offensive line at Iowa State. He also was the head coach at Simpson College before returning to Dowling where he coached the offensive line for 10 years and was part of eight state championships, including the final one with Gavin Williams starting at running back in 2019.
“I’ve heard a lot of stories about him, all good things,” Gavin Williams said. “It was interesting to meet someone that had been with that program for that long, and the loyalty that he had for Dowling football. And just talking to him the few amount of times I did, it was very inciteful on how we thought about football and what he wanted out of his o-line.
“And I appreciated that because I can’t do anything without my big boys.”
As a 1982 graduate of Dowling, I learned about Jim Williams at a very young age.
My father, who also played running back for Dowling, and for Notre Dame, used to rave about Jim Williams’ coaching ability.
I remember attending Dowling games while in grade school, and more times than not, the outcome was decided by halftime, or sometimes, even earlier than that.
The only thing Dowling didn’t accomplish under Jim Williams as head coach was winning a state title as Dowling finished runner-up in 1972, 1973 and 1974 under him.
But his knowledge of the game, especially as an offensive line coach, and his love for Dowling football made him truly special.
Gavin Williams hadn’t heard of Jim Williams before transferring to Dowling before his senior year.
But it didn’t take long for them to meet as Gavin Williams was told by Dowling running backs coach Aundra Meeks to introduce himself to Jim Williams shortly after joining the team.
“He was probably one of the first four or five people that I met,” Gavin Williams said. “Coach Meeks was like, go introduce yourself to coach Williams. And then I went up and introduced myself, hey, this is who I am, I’m new here, but I just wanted to meet you because I’ve heard a lot about you, and I just wanted to put a name with the face.”
Jim Williams could’ve easily stepped away from football and lived a quiet life in retirement.
But he loved the game, he loved the competition, he loved Dowling and he loved helping to mold and mentor young men such as Gavin Williams.
Dowling was so blessed to have had Jim Williams as both a head coach, and as an assistant coach.
Jim Williams rarely talked about his accomplishments, but those around, including Dowling head coach Tom Wilson, made sure that the players knew exactly what Jim Williams had accomplished.
“I’ve heard about some of his accomplishments from coach Wilson and other people, but he didn’t really mention his accomplishments,” Gavin Williams said. “I don’t know for what reason. But he was just a humble guy who just wanted those high school linemen to just get better.”
And though Jim Williams lived a long and happy life, his death just four days after Christmas had a jarring effect.
Gavin Williams is glad for lots of reasons that he played his final season of high school football for Dowling.
He helped win a state title, and he got to know a legend.
— Dome Dynasty (@DomeDynasty) January 13, 2022