By SETH STASKEY
Times Leader Sports Editor
BETHANY - Harrison Central graduate Nico Williams has no trouble admitting what his biggest issue was during his four years of high school.
PICTURED ARE the Ohio linebackers for Sunday’s 69th annual Rudy Mumley OVAC?All-Star Football Game, which will be played Sunday night at Wheeling Island Stadium at 7:15 p.m. Front row, from left, are Chris Littell (Shadyside), Kenny Hess (Bellaire) and John Miscuk (East Liverpool). Standing, from left, are Clifford Clark (Cambridge), Devan Pyciak (Buckeye Local) and Nico Williams (Harrison?Central). Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
"My entire problem was that I was never disciplined," Williams, who will play for Ohio in Sunday's 69th annual Rudy Mumley OVAC All-Star Game, said.
Basically, Williams lived his life with wreckless abandon.
"I was doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to do it," Williams said. "I didn't realize that until my senior year. My parents loved and cared about me, but they were just never real strict with me."
Williams, who will turn 18 on Sunday, believes the fact that he recognized his problem prior to last football season is actually what allowed him to lead the Huskies in tackles and eventually earn the right to play in Sunday night's encounter with West Virginia.
"I knew I had to grow up eventually, so I made some changes," Williams said. "Those (changes) helped me become a better football player and person."
The need and desire for stronger discipline and better habits - along with some urging from one of his friends - led him to one of the biggest decisions he's made in his 18 years and it had nothing to do with a play on the football field.
While the majority of his Ohio teammates will return to their hometowns Sunday night and await their trips to college, Williams will go home and begin packing. He departs in some 10 days for Fort Jackson in South Carolina where he'll become a member of the United States Army.
"I have a brand new mentality, and I am really ready to begin life," Williams said.
Prior to formally deciding to pursue the army, Williams gave serious consideration to just signing up for the National Guard, but simply decided he wanted more.
"My friend wanted to go (to the army) and he talked me into it because one weekend out of the month (for National Guard) isn't enough," Williams admitted.
So listening to his friend's advice, he decided to meet with an army recruiter to acquire more information. The one meeting was all it took.
"I talked to him and I fell in love with it," Williams offered. "I am more excited to go to the army than anything in the world."
Williams officially signed up for the army in March and hasn't given it a second thought.
"I've been excited for this ever since that day," Williams said.
Williams hasn't really done a lot of physical training to prepare for the rigors of basic training.
"Excuse my language, but (basic training) is going to be like hell, no doubt," Williams said. "But, as soon as that is over, it's easy and the army takes care of you for life because you put that commitment up for them."
Williams spent most of the summer, before reporting to Bethany College for camp, working a part-time job.
Once he joins the army, he's scheduled for a term of three years and 21 weeks. After that, he's unsure whether or not he'll sign up for more because Williams has career and educational aspirations, too.
"My schooling will be paid for, I want to wrestle (in college), and probably more than anything, I want to be a chef," Williams admitted. "If I enjoy the army as much as I think I am going go to, after my schooling, I may go back in until I retire."
While many recently turned 18 year olds are apprehensive about going away from home for the first time. Leaving for basic training and then risking your life for the United States might simply be too much for most guys.
Williams isn't like most guys.
"My whole life I've always wanted to be on a team and never singular because you're not going to go anywhere in life that way," Williams said. "There is always going to be sometime when you're going to count on someone else, and I've figured that. I am ready for this. Don't get me wrong, I realize if our country goes to war, I would be like, 'wow! Is this really happening?' But, if the country you're living in much more freely than any other country in the world goes to world, fight for it because if something happens, it's meant to."
Williams offered his praise for the guidance and help that Harrison head football coach Justin Kropka gave him during the course of the season and ultimately throughout the school year.
"Coach Krop was my main motivator and like my best friend because he told me the right and wrong things," Williams said. "Another big person was my linebacker coach was Coach (Bryan) Mays because he didn't take any shenigans from me."
Knowing he only has so much free time to enjoy his friends, family, summer and the Ohio Valley before leaving, Williams never hesitated when he was selected to play on Team Ohio this weekend.
"I've loved this experience, and I really enjoy being around my teammates," Williams said. "I was afraid I was going to get here and being around a bunch of guys who weren't cohesive, but we have unity. Everybody gets along, and I love it."
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org