Everton Williams (BA 2015)

Everton Williams, BA'15Canadian defensive lineman, Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Everton Williams, 25, who graduates from U of T Mississauga this week with a BA in art and art history, has put aside youthful dreams of becoming an architect for the chance to become the architect of his own Canadian Football League success.

In fact, Williams, who hails from North York, won’t cross the stage at Convocation Hall with UTM’s 1,737 spring graduands, because the Ticats began their training camp on May 31, and he is focused on earning a spot on the team.

“Over time, he’ll find his way into the league,” says Greg Gary, the Varsity Blues’ head football coach. “He will outwork people and do whatever is necessary to be successful. He is a model of the hard work it takes to get to the next level.”

Williams has always been an athlete, although initially, basketball was his focus. During his Grade 11 year in high school, his younger brother began playing football. Williams decided he would try it, too, since it sounded like an interesting way of staying in shape for basketball season while offering him an opportunity to compete against his brother.

“I fell in love with it,” Williams says. “By Grade 12, I was gravitating toward football.”

UTM offered Williams a scholarship and the option to play both football and basketball while studying art and art history to prepare for an architecture career, an opportunity he couldn’t resist.

During his first year with the Blues, Williams sat on the bench as a red-shirt, meaning that he extended his football eligibility by watching and learning, but not participating in games. In his second year, Williams’ first as an active player, he earned the honour of playing in the East-West All-Star Game, a showcase for CFL prospects. A number of teams approached him afterward, expressing interest.

“I was younger than most of the other players and not as skilled, but I held my own,” says Williams, then a defensive tackle. “I was already hungry for the sport and wanted to go as far as I could.”

Unfortunately, injuries took their toll. Williams tore up his knee and elbow during his draft year and surgery and rehabilitation meant he was unable to participate in the CFL combine, the major tryout camp for prospective players. Luckily, the Ticats remembered his All-Star Game performance and invited him to training camp as an offensive lineman, a completely new position.

“At first, it caught me off guard,” Williams says. “I’ve been attacking the quarterback all my life and now I’m protecting him. It threw me.”

As he has always done, however, Williams is working hard, determined to succeed.

“If you saw how big my playbook is, you’d understand that it doesn’t feel as if I’ve left university yet,” he says.

Sometimes, it’s hard to believe he’s playing in the CFL.

“Just getting the Ticats gear and my locker and being around all the guys I’ve watched on TV – it’s surreal. But, I snap out of it really quickly when we play.”

Williams isn’t closing the door on an architecture career, but “I don’t even want to think about the future,” he says.

“There’s a saying, ‘Play football until football is done with you.’ It’s not done with me yet.”

Author: Elaine Smith, University of Toronto Mississauga, 2015

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