Auburn, Ala.–-There is nothing senior linebacker Travis Williams hates worse than not being able to play football. Unfortunately for him, that’s the story for the rest of spring practice after he suffered an ankle injury in Auburn's first major scrimmage.
“I was looking forward to this spring as far as getting better,” Williams says. “I just like going out there and getting better every chance I get. I look at this as a setback, but I can get more timing looking at film. The time being out there in actual action, I’m going to miss that. Hopefully, I can bounce back before spring is out.”
Working with the first-team defense in a goal line drill, Williams was attempting to make a play when someone rolled up on his leg during a play. While he didn’t think it was too bad at the time, Williams says that when he tried to put weight on it he knew that things were a bit different than he first thought.
“When I hit the ground I just laid there,” Williams says. “In a game you get bumped and bruised all the time. I thought it didn’t feel right. When I got up I saw Kevis (Kevis Burnam) running in and I was like ‘I’m straight,’ but when I took a step I hit the ground and it wasn’t right. I wanted to stay out there because I just started playing mike over the summer and I wanted the spring to polish my skills. I’ll just have to watch a lot of film and get better mentally.
“A situation like this can happen anytime during the season so it’s always good for a guy like Kevis to get a lot of reps so he can be ready,” Williams adds. “There are a lot of young guys and they can get a long look at the young guys.”
Travis Williams was an All-SEC performer for the Tigers in 2004.
Taking up the slack for Williams the rest of the spring will be Burnam and redshirt freshman Courtney Harden. Two players with more size than Williams, but not as much experience, Williams says he will take on the job of an extra coach alongside Joe Whitt for the rest of spring practice so he can help the linebackers improve.
“I was kind of helping out along the way the whole time,” Williams notes. “Now I can really focus on helping them a lot because they ask me a lot of questions. I just try to give them a feel for what’s going on and little tips here or there. Right now, for a guy like Courtney Harden, it’s moving fast for them. Once the game settles down he’s going to be a pretty good player.”
An All-SEC performer last year in his first season at middle linebacker for the Tigers, Williams played with a chip on his shoulder after everyone he encountered wondered if he was big enough to get the job done in the league. Now with players like Merrill Johnson, Chris Evans and incoming freshman Tray Blackmon the next smaller linebackers in line for Auburn, Williams says he hopes to show them that you have to do more than run to be able to play at this level.
“I have always tried to prove people wrong about my size,” Williams says. “I know going into this year there will still be questions. All I am is a football player. I just want to give hope and confidence to the younger guys that you have to have something in you. You have to be tough and you have to have linebacker instincts. You can’t think just because you’re my size you can play it. For the type of offenses that teams run now you need smaller linebackers. I guess we came along at the right time.”
Already this spring both Johnson and Evans have shown they have the skills and desire to be players for the Tigers down the road. Williams says it’s easy to see that both really want to be good and play without fear, always a plus when you’re not the biggest guy on the field.
“Guys like Merrill and Chris can play,” Williams says. “We laughed about it when Chris hit the quarterback (in practice). It was pretty funny because we can’t touch the quarterback. He’s just one of those guys that when you have the ball he’s going to hit you. Merrill is the same way. We also signed Tray (TBlackmon), another small linebacker. If you can play ball, no matter your size, they are going to play you here. That’s a good thing.”
While the injury to Williams is serious enough to keep him out the rest of the spring, it’s not thought to be an injury that will cause him any problems down the road. Even with the ankle sprain, Williams said it would be a different story if this occurred during the season, say before the Alabama game.
“Oh yeah, I’m playing,” Williams said. “Me and Coach Gibbs (defensive coordinator David Gibbs) were talking about that. He said ‘if we were on the goal line and you twisted your ankle, if it was Alabama would you be out? I said that there’s no question I would be out there. I would be on one leg.’ If it was during the season I would have to do some strong rehab work, tape it up heavily and get after it.”