Former two-sports standout Marcus Williams, now a sophomore defensive back at North Dakota State University, came into Saturday’s football game versus Minnesota with a chip on his shoulder. He left the game with a 37-24 upset win over the Golden Gophers at TCF Stadium and two defensive touchdowns.
Williams helped lead the Royals to an 8-3 record in football as a senior—losing to then-No. 1 ranked Eden Prairie 43-34 in the section finals. Williams was named first-team All-Metro by the Minneapolis Star Tribune and KARE 11 Sports after he caught 45 passes for 1,025 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed 16 times for 157 yards and four more scores.
Williams was also a standout point guard who averaged 8.1 points per game as the Royals finished 31-0, defeating Osseo 69-59 in the title game.
The 2008-09 team has been called by some observers as the most talented team in Minnesota state history. That squad featured Royce White (Iowa State), Trent Lockett (Arizona State), Raymond Cowels (Santa Clara), Mike Broghammer (Notre Dame), Marvin Singleton (Northern Iowa), Moses Sundufu, Joe Coleman (Minnesota), D. J. Peterson (LaSalle) and returning senior point guard Siyani Chambers.
Williams was a late qualifier who received some recruiting interest from Minnesota, Iowa State, Western Michigan, Northern Illinois and North Dakota State, but opted to sign with the Bison.
Like many players on the NDSU roster, Williams felt that he was good enough to play for home state Minnesota. If there were any doubters about his abilities, they were erased after he scored two crucial touchdowns and helped hold Gophers’ top receiver Da’Jon McKnight to just three catches for 39 yards.
On the final play of the first half, teammate Colten Heagle picked off MarQueis Gray's Hail Mary pass and lateraled the ball to Williams as he was taken down. Williams ran 52 more yards to put the Bison up 28-14 at halftime.
Minnesota cut the lead to 31-24 when Williams, who runs a 4.4 40-yard dash, intercepted a Max Shortell pass and returned it 40 yards to seal the victory with 2:36 left in the game and caused the Gopher fans to hurry to the exits.
Patch.com caught up with Williams after the game to learn more about his key defensive plays, life in Fargo and memories of his time at Hopkins.
Hopkins Patch: You couldn’t have asked for a better script for your trip back home.
Marcus Williams: No. This is what I dreamed of since I’ve been at NDSU. I planned on this game, being a big game for me. I knew that once I got a chance to be on this field and playing, that I was going to give it my all.
Hopkins Patch: Talk about the first touchdown
Williams: The first touchdown was just a heads-up play by Colten. He read the quarterback. He went for the pick and got it. He is running down and almost getting tackled. Coach always says, "If you are getting tackled and you catch an interception before the half, always pitch it back." So, he had a heads-up play and I was heads-up seeing him pitch it and I picked it up and ran it in.
Hopkins Patch: What was your thought when you saw the ball coming towards you?
Williams: I’m getting it before anyone else does. I didn’t want it to go out-of-bounds, so I ran up and got it and I went for the score.
Hopkins Patch: You had to feel that was a big momentum change since they were moving the ball, but instead of being down by seven at the half, they were now down 14 points.
Williams: It is a big momentum change. Anytime you can score before the half and get that momentum on your side, it helps the team. It helps the offense. It helps the defense and even special teams. It helps everything. If you can score before the half, it is big for you.
Hopkins Patch: How about the last touchdown? That one put the game away.
Williams: The last touchdown, I was in a deep half. I read the quarterback’s eyes the whole way. I saw the ball come out, and I just broke on it and went for the touchdown.
Hopkins Patch: It has been a long time sicne you had two touchdowns in a game.
Williams: It’s been awhile. I love it. I love the feeling of coming back home, showing off. I really didn’t feel that it was an upset. I feel that the better team won. I love what I did. I love my teammates. The coaches had good schemes, so it felt good.
Hopkins Patch: A lot of players on the NDSU roster have chips on their shoulders about Minnesota because they thought that they were maybe good enough to play for Minnesota, but for some reason or another, they were not recruited as hard as they maybe should have been.
Williams: We have a lot of players like that. We have players like Billy Turner (a tackle who played at Mounds View), a big offensive lineman who was looked over. We have a tight end in Matt Veldman (from Becker) who was looked over, Tight end Taylor Nelson (of Minnetonka). I could just go on. Linebacker Grant Olson (of Wayzata). Players who are smart players who just didn’t get that chance because they thought they weren’t as big or as fast as other players. We all came together as one and it paid off.
Hopkins Patch: How about you? Minnesota looked at you.
Williams: They looked at me, but they didn’t give me that shot. Once I came to NDSU and they said that we are going to play Minnesota, I had that game in my eye for a long time. I knew that once the game came, I was going to be ready for it.
Hopkins Patch: How about life at NDSU as a student?
Williams: It is going good. I am in the books heavy up there—studying so I will be eligible to play because that was a big thing for me coming out of high school, whether I was going to be eligible or not. That is a big thing. It is a good atmosphere up there. It’s not too big, but it is not too small, either. It is a good place to be, if you want to go to school.
Hopkins Patch: I know that your schedule is pretty busy, but do you get much of a chance to get back home?
Williams: Not too much. I stay in touch with my family and they always come see me at my games. If I don’t get to see them, I’ll call or text them or see them on Facebook.
Hopkins Patch: Did you have some family members at the game tonight?
Williams: I had a few family members here. I had my dad here with a few cousins and my little sister. Everybody else at home was watching it on TV.
Hopkins Patch: When you look back at your time at Hopkins, what stands out as some of the top memories for you?
Williams: Winning the state championship was the best memory I had. As a sophomore, we made it to state in football. That was a big year for me, my first year playing varsity football. I have a lot of memories. was a great coach. Coach DenHartog was also a great coach. He taught me well. Hopkins is always in my heart. I try to go back there as much as I can when I am back at home, playing around and helping out the other kids.
Hopkins Patch: They have continued the tradition and won two more titles in basketball for three straight. Do you get a chance to follow them much?
Williams: I am all for them. Anytime I get a chance to read the newspaper and follow Hopkins, I am always watching for them. I love Hopkins. It is where I came from.
Hopkins Patch: After the two touchdowns, are you going to be asking the offensive coaches about getting you on offense a little bit.
Williams: I wish (laughing). I am fine where I am. The offensive coaches know what they are doing on that side. We have some great players over there. A little banged up, but we’ll be fine. We are doing good out there. I liked it as a D-back. Coach has put me in the right spot for success.
Hopkins Patch: Do you miss playing offense, though?
Williams: I did my first year, but once you get to be a part of the defense, you start to pull everything you have into it and don’t think about offense.
Hopkins Patch: How about basketball? Do you miss that?
Williams: I miss it a lot. I am always thinking about "Should I play?" I play on my own. I go to the Wellness Center and shoot some shots and play some pickup games. I miss it a lot.
Hopkins Patch: Do the basketball coaches ever try to talk you into playing for them?
Williams: (Head) Coach Phillips is a great guy. I love Saul. We always joke around, talking about how I am going to come see him. Sometimes, I play pickup games with the team. He is a cool guy.
Hopkins Patch: Have you thought about what you are going to major in?
Williams: I am angling towards universal studies. I am going toward Sociology with a minor in child development.
Hopkins Patch: Do you think about trying to play in the NFL?
Williams: That has always been my dream. I wouldn’t mind it. I would love to play in the NFL one day and get a shot. If I get that shot, I am going to make sure I make it a big one.