More than graduates will be returning to Kentucky State’s Alumni Stadium this weekend.
So will the KSU football team, which hasn’t played a home game since Sept. 8.
“It’s homecoming for everybody,” said sophomore running back Justin Williams. “It’s been tough, and we’ve been playing far away. It was 14 hours to Pennsylvania, 12 hours to Fort Valley State, five or six hours to Albany State, and six hours to Chicago.
“It’s been a road trip, but Saturday we get to play for the crowd here. That will be fun. Everyone’s excited about being back. Now we just have to go out, get rid of the mistakes and play to our potential.”
The Thorobreds (1-4, 0-1 in the SIAC) host Miles College (5-1, 3-0) Saturday at 1:30 p.m. for homecoming.
Williams has been a jack-of-all-trades on offense for the Thorobreds this season.
Primarily a running back, he’s seen time at wide receiver and has even played some quarterback.
Not bad for someone who got a late start in the sport.
“I didn’t start playing football until the 10th grade,” said Williams, from Pompano Beach, Fla. “I always played street ball, but I didn’t play organized football until the 10th grade.”
Williams didn’t play any organized sports until taking up football his sophomore year of high school.
“I grew up in a bad neighborhood, and my dad didn’t like me going outside,” he said. “When I turned 15 I told him ‘Pops, I’m ready to play football,’ and he said all right. Since then I’ve been playing organized ball.
“By my senior year there were a few schools that recruited me but none that I was interested in going to. I went to a junior college, but that didn’t work out so I came home.”
A call from a coach set him on the path to Kentucky State.
“A coach called me from another school and asked why wasn’t I in school,” Williams said. “I told him I’d been bouncing around and hadn’t found a home yet.
“He told me about Kentucky State, and they called me. I just wanted to play ball. I wanted to get back into the game. I came here to do my school work and play ball.”
And that’s just what he’s been doing.
Williams earned significant playing time as a freshman, and it’s increased this season.
He’s the Thorobreds’ leading rusher with 344 yards on 93 carries, and he’s caught 10 catches for 71 yards. As a quarterback he’s gone 7-for-17 for 115 yards with one interception.
Williams is also K-State’s leading scorer with 38 points (six touchdowns and one two-point conversion).
In high school he played running back and wide receiver, and he returned punts and kickoffs. He never played quarterback in high school.
“My role, I feel like I’m going to do whatever it takes to get the team a win,” Williams said. “If they want me to play quarterback, I’ll play quarterback. They want me to play running back, I’ll play running back. They want me to play wide receiver, I’ll play wide receiver.
“Whatever the coach says will help the team, that’s where I’m at.”
Williams’ favorite part of Kentucky State has been the people he’s met.
“Everybody’s really friendly, there are a lot of smiles from everybody,” he said. “There’s not a lot of trouble to get into, being it’s not in a big city. I get to do what I love and go to school and hopefully make a living out of it.”
Williams, who is majoring in computer gaming and technology, would like to play football after graduation. Right now he’s concentrating on the Thorobreds and what he can do to help the team.
“Coach designates captains for the team, and at the same time I still do my part,” he said. “I try to let them do the leading, but if I see something I’ll say ‘hey, you need to pick it up here.’ I see myself as a leader on the team.
“Sometimes coaches will say, ‘Justin, go talk to them.’ They (teammates) respond to me. I don’t mind. I show them the same respect I expect them to give to me. If the respect level is high it’s easier for me. I want to do that, to be a leader on the team.”
Williams said the Thorobreds recently held a team meeting that has had a positive effect.
“Our motto is if we do everything the coaches tell us to do, we’re still not doing enough,” he said. “We have to pick it up; everyone has to be ready to go.
“Practices have been up-tempo. The offense has been flying around, the defense has been flying around. I feel Saturday we may be making a statement to let everyone know we’re back on track.”