Patiently waiting

MHS grad Peyton Williams sidelined by back surgery

T-R PHOTO BY THORN COMPTON • Peyton Williams, a 2016 Marshalltown High School graduate, poses for a photograph during the Northern Iowa football team’s annual media day event Aug. 2 at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. Williams, who played quarterback and linebacker as a Bobcat, was set to make his debut at tight end until an injury forced Williams into surgery this summer.

CEDAR FALLS — Entering his first year as an eligible player for the University of Northern Iowa football program, Marshalltown High School graduate Peyton Williams was set to be a contributor on the Panthers offense at tight end, but a back injury in the last few weeks of summer workouts has sidelined him for the 2017 season.

During UNI’s media day last week, Williams said he was looking forward to earning a spot for the Panthers, wherever he fits in best.

“I was coming off my redshirt year and I had gotten up to weight so now I was looking to work my way into the offense in certain packages that we have and get on some special teams,” Williams said of his plans before the injury.

When Williams was last on the field as a Bobcat, he was running the offense at quarterback, but at UNI he’s made the transition to tight end. Switching positions like that comes with some challenges, one of which involved putting on weight to block defensive linemen.

Panthers tight end coach Nick Danielson said, while it is unfortunate they won’t get to utilize Williams on the field this season, he can already see the work Williams has put in to shaping himself into what the position requires.

“He’s a tough kid, he’s an established wrestler and he comes from a wrestling family, so he’s got the toughness to do it and he understands what it takes. He just had to transform his body a little bit,” Danielson said, “and he did that. He came into spring bigger and he was coming into camp at around 230 [pounds], but he tweaked his back up right there in the last couple weeks.”

As Danielson said, Williams went from just under 200 pounds his final year at MHS to over 230 coming into his second year with the Panthers, with most of those extra pounds packed on as muscle.

Physical change wasn’t the only thing required of Williams, however, as he had to learn how to play on the offensive line at the start of his freshman year.

“The first day of camp to me last year was learning how to get into a stance,” he said. “There was a lot of stuff to learn like that, the transition has gone well though. After camp last year I was basically good with my footwork and getting in the stance and stuff. Obviously we still work on our footwork all the time still to keep that up, but the route running and the blocking, it is all way different.”

Fortunately, Williams was no stranger to the physicality of blocking, as he was used to contact from playing defense for the Bobcats.

“I played linebacker too, so I had some collisions,” he said. “The hardest thing for that was my feet and my hands, getting my hand placement right and my footwork right. Route running I had an idea of from playing quarterback, so the biggest part to learn from that was basically my cuts and getting out of my breaks.”

Now that Williams is officially out for 2017, Danielson said he will of course take a step back physically, but given his work ethic that shouldn’t be an issue moving forward.

“What he has done for me this camp that has caught me off guard is he has stood in the back of every drill we have done or when we’ve gotten into a huddle on the sideline, he has stood and coached our two new guys through all the plays,” Danielson said. “He knows this offense much better than I thought he did, to be honest. He is a great addition to the room and he will be an asset to the team this year — he just won’t be wearing pads.”

That role as a teacher is something Williams said he takes seriously, and he looks forward to helping bring along the younger tight ends in the group, though obviously he’d prefer to help the team on the field.

“Surgery, that sucks. Hopefully I will be back for winter conditioning after Christmas break,” he said. “Right now, during the season my job is to help the younger two guys step up, help them learn the offense and help them with their feet, help then with their hands. Just like the older guys helped me with last year.”