MACON — Every football team needs an anchor.
Some might consider that player a rock or a trusted stalwart who leads the offense or defense.
Others might refer to him as a talismanic spirit who guides the team through adversity.
Corey Williams filled that role superbly for the Noxubee County High School Tigers.
The senior opened the season as a three-year starter. As a sophomore, he was part of Noxubee County”s Class 4A state title squad.
His experience in helping navigate a team to Jackson was needed this season to deal with a youthful turnover and a rash of injuries that saw a half dozen players lost for the season.
At middle linebacker, he quarterbacked the defense to a salty 7.8 points per game average.
The defense turned up its play in the playoffs, holding its first three opponents to 13 points before losing to Lafayette County in the Class 4A North State title game.
Williams, The Dispatch Large Schools All-Area Football Team”s Defensive Player of the Year, finished second on the team with 78 tackles and three sacks. He forced a pair of fumbles and recovered a pair. He saved his breakout performance for the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic with five tackles, an interception, and a sack in Mississippi”s 24-17 double-overtime loss.
Noxubee County coach Tyrone Shorter knew Williams was destined for big things when he saw him play in the seventh grade.
“You could just tell he was gonna be a leader, a guy others would look up to,” Shorter said. “He”s coachable and hates to lose. You can do a lot with a kid like that.”
Shorter spent 11 of his 12 seasons at Noxubee County as a defensive assistant or defensive coordinator before becoming head coach in the spring.
Passing the torch of coordinator duties and taking on the leadership of a program meant having an anchor he could trust.
“He knew all the lineman positions and the linebacker positions,” Shorter said. “We gave him the opportunity to change plays in games if he saw something we went over in practice. He has great character and is a great all-around person.”
Shorter and Williams are surprised a scholarship offer has yet to come, though both are confident one will come with more than a month left until signing day.
“I know my grades are good, but from that All-Star game they should start rolling in,” Williams said. “I showed out in that game and did all I could.”
At 6-foot, 205 pounds, some scouts are concerned about Williams” size and what position he will play at the next level, Shorter said.
Interest from Alcorn State, Jackson State, and Louisiana-Lafayette is encouraging, Shorter said.
Shorter would love nothing more than to see Williams wreak havoc in college football, especially after coaching him for six seasons.
Back then, Williams was much the ”tweener” as he is now, having yet decided on a position.
That”s when Shorter, who noticed the necessary elements to man the middle, taught him to play linebacker.
“We started off fresh,” Williams said. “Every basic thing. If I had to get it, he”d give it to me one on one. We always worked until I got it.”
Williams said he wanted to keep the linebacking unit”s play up to Noxubee County standards after looking up to former LaDarius Mitchell, Ricardo Hill, and Marcus Jamison.
To fill those guys” shoes, he had to play with the same attitude, he said.
“Shouldn”t nothing, no player in front of me ever keep me from doing my job,” Williams said. “You can”t think any other way. I play with heart and faith that I can do what I”ve been trained to do. For as hard as you work at practice, you don”t want to leave a game knowing you didn”t play good.”
Against Louisville and former head coach M.C. Miller, Williams preserved a 19-12 win with a fourth-quarter interception.
“Everybody was down because we were struggling a little bit,” Williams said. “I had everybody amped up, telling them, ”We”re all right, we”re gonna do it.” But I knew I had to make a play, too. As I caught the interception, it felt good. It really saved us in that game.”