By Nathan Mollat Daily Journal Staff
Dylan Williams can thank a shoulder injury for reshaping his high school career. And he couldn’t be happier.
That glee shows on the football field for Half Moon Bay. Nominally known as a kicker, Williams is showing that he is a complete football player. In the Cougars’ 28-10 win over Menlo-Atherton last Friday, Williams was seemingly involved in every big play. The highlight was a 49-yard field goal that barely crept over the crossbar to give Half Moon Bay a 14-3, third-quarter lead. He later returned a kickoff 75 yards and then, in the fourth quarter, as the Cougars were trying to ice the game, it was Williams’ 31-yard run on fourth-and-6 down to the M-A 6-yard line that ultimately resulted in the game-sealing score from Chase Hofmann.
Williams also added a 32-yard field goal in the first quarter. Add it all together and it was more than enough to earn the Daily Journal’s Athlete of the Week honors.
“He’s a good athlete, offensively, defensively, special teams-wise,” said Half Moon Bay coach Keith Holden.
Williams is just happy to be back on the field. He was limited to kicking chores last season because of that shoulder injury.
“I’m thankful the coaches have so much trust in me,” Williams said. “It helps so much with my mental state. I’m just thankful to get that opportunity to perform. Luckily I’m surrounded by a good team.”
Holden first got a look at Williams during his sophomore year — at Menlo School. Williams moved to El Granada during sixth-grade, but he had been going to Menlo School his whole life. After missing most of his freshman year with a back injury, and initially dislocating his shoulder sliding into second base on a steal attempt while playing baseball, he tore up the Peninsula Athletic League junior varsity ranks his sophomore year.
“He single-handedly destroyed our JV team,” Holden said.
Williams recalled he scored three touchdowns in that game and finished the season with 21 as the JV Knights captured the league title.
That earned him a call-up for the varsity team’s Central Coast Section run and during practice, his dislocated his shoulder for a second time. When he returned to the football field before the start of his junior, he separated the shoulder once again, necessitating surgery this past January, when he transferred to Half Moon Bay.
That’s when a suggestion from his mother turned his athletic career around.
“My mom said, ‘Why don’t you try kicking since you can’t do anything with your shoulder?’” Williams said.
He took a kicking lesson from a private coach and became hooked. A background in soccer gave him to muscle memory to kick footballs and a constant regime of private coaching and kicking camps now has him on the Division I college map.
“I just have to thank my shoulder injury for putting me on the kicking route,” Williams said. “I have found kicking to be a passion.
“What would have happened if I didn’t have this shoulder injury?”
That passion has turned into a potent weapon for Half Moon Bay this season, where Williams landed after deciding to transfer from Menlo. In addition to the 49-yarder he hit against M-A, he also added a 32-yard kick in the first quarter, making him 5 for 7 on the season. All five of his kickoffs against the Bears went for touchbacks, giving him 42 for the season, and his three extra points made him 41 for 41 in 2017.
“[The 49-yard kick], that’s my personal record. It was a great feeling. It was great to share the moment with all the guys,” Williams said. “To be honest, when I struck the ball, I thought for sure it was going in. Then the ball caught the wind and started hooking right.”
The referee under that right upright did a little lean-back step before acknowledging it with his counterpart under the left upright and shooting his arms up in the air, signaling the kick was good.
“It was, by far, the weirdest kick I’ve ever seen,” Williams said. “It was great to see the ref’s arms go up.”
Not everything came up aces for Williams Friday night, however. He did fumble a punt away and he later missed on a 42-yard field goal attempt, but Williams is already well acquainted with the mindset of a kicker.
“As a kicker, you really have to have a short-term memory,” Williams said. “I always have to tell myself there will be another chance.”
And unlike his junior year when all Williams could do was run on the field, kick and then run off because of his shoulder, he is getting a lot more opportunities to showcase his all-around football talent during his senior year.
“Being a kicker is just being a kicker. You can only have so much fun with it,” Williams said. “But being on the field (at a position other than kicker) and sharing the moment on the field with my teammates, it’s making it a great experience.
“From a college standpoint, I definitely think of myself as a kicker. But in high school, I definitely see myself as a football player.”