LEWISTOWN — Mifflin County’s Zach Williams always thought that if he was going to continue his athletic career at the collegiate level that it was going to be in baseball.
Williams’ first opportunities came on the diamond, but following his senior season of football, Williams wasn’t ready to hang up his shoulder pads.
That’s when the 6-foot, 3-inch 220-pound force of a defensive lineman started putting his focus on finding an opportunity to play college football and that opportunity presented itself in March when the senior committed to continue his playing career at Allegheny College.
“Playing football for coach (Scot) Sechler the last couple years made me realize that this was the sport I wanted to continue to play,” Williams said. “He made me feel like I belonged as part of the team. Meeting coach Rich Nagy from Allegheny, it was like I was going to play another four years for a coach with the same passion and drive.
“I had numerous offers to play baseball in college, but none of those schools had my pre-dental major,” Williams added. “After playing my senior year of football, I respectfully declined those schools to play football.”
For Williams, a visit to Allegheny College and a meeting with coach Nagy made all the difference.
“Allegheny was set apart from the rest because of its academics,” Williams said. “During the visit, it just felt like home and like I belonged. I like the student to staff ratio and they also are connected to the Erie School of Osteopathy where I need to do my residency.”
The process happened rather quickly and after considering some other opportunities, Williams quickly realized that he had found the right school for him.
“I think it was the right fit for him. He was leaning toward Slippery Rock at the time and had found that Allegheny had the study that he was interested in and we reached out to the coach and got a hold of him and sent some film up,” Sechler said. “The coach was just awestruck that Zach wanted to come up there. It happened very quickly, he went up for a visit and within a week, week and a half of talking to their coach, he fell in love with the campus and program. They are in a rebuilding phase and I think he wants to be a part of building something special there.”
The recruiting process wasn’t too difficult for Williams once he had made the decision to focus on football.
“The recruiting wasn’t too bad. I was all in for baseball until my senior year of football and then one visit with coach Nagy from Allegheny I knew I wanted to play football,” Williams said. “It’s amazing to be able to continue playing football in college to represent MCHS and Coach Sechler.”
Williams will join the Gators as a member of the defensive line, where he was an integral part of the Huskies’ front seven. Williams recorded 73 tackles in just 13 games in his junior and senior seasons, including seven for a loss. He made a huge impact on the game as a senior, recording 31 tackles — good enough for fourth on the team — on the line.
His leadership on the sidelines and off the field make him an even bigger asset.
“Zach was one of the vocal leaders on our football team,” Sechler said. “He was a guy who was always there to get guys excited and fired up. He was the guy on defense who was just a hustler. He was a guy from that D-line that just always had his head down and went full speed. We’re definitely going to miss him.
“He’s a good kid and a great student,” Sechler continued. “He’s pretty coachable. Some kids when you try to instruct them it takes a little bit to get through to them, but he responded really well to instruction. He was good when you were hard on him and when you praised him. He was really the core and the heart of that defensive line.”
Williams said that he was just grateful to be able to get out on the field and play.
“It just was an honor to be a leader on the Huskies defense and helping where I could,” he said. “Getting moved from defensive end to down lineman after losing key players was a sacrifice I could make for the team.”
Williams also found time on the field on special teams and was someone that Sechler could rely on in any situation.
“He was a guy that if you needed something — not even just on defense — if it was kickoff or the punt team, he was the guy to do that,” Sechler said. “Position didn’t matter to him, he just wanted to play football and that’s special. You can’t coach that.”
Among Williams’ favorite memories in his high school career were holding down Shippensburg’s high-powered offense to just three points in the second half his junior season, as well as his final game in a Huskies uniform at HersheyPark Stadium — a bitter 22-17 loss to Lower Dauphin.
Williams said his professional goals include completing a degree in pre-dental before eventually becoming a surgeon.
Williams thanked Coach Sechler as well as his teammates for helping him become the football player he is today.
“Thank you to Coach Sechler for believing in me and pushing me, and to my teammates for making me a better ball player,” Williams said. “I can’t wait to step on the field again to honor my parents and high school coaches. It’s been a privilege to play for the coaches at MCHS. I will forever be a Husky. For now, I’m going to start a new chapter as a Gator.”