Former standout Marcus Williams, now a cornerback for the national champion North Dakota State University football team, anticipates a warm welcome back as the new semester begins.
"I was walking around campus, going to get my books today, and was wearing my national championship hat, and people were telling me, 'Good game,' and, 'Congratulations,' and stuff like that," Williams said on Monday.
He and his Bison teammates captured the NCAA Division I Football Championship Series national title Saturday with a 17-6 win over Sam Houston State. Williams had four tackles, broke up a pair of passes and had a near interception in the game. He also made a big backfield tackle on the Bearkats' opening drive, which helped established a dominate day for the Bison defense.
"Sam Houston's a great team. They have great players and coaches," Williams said. "We had to prove to the nation that we're a great team, as well."
The Bearkats mustered 115 yards passing against Williams and the Bison secondary. Although Williams didn't get to add to his seven interceptions—fourth in the FCS—a couple of his teammates picked off passes in the fourth quarter, which sealed the game. The Bison offense also came through with a pair of touchdowns to aid the defense during the second half.
"We were doing everything right," Williams said. "The offense came in there and picked it up. Once we got that momentum, we just went from there."
Williams also had a couple of kick and punt returns for 25 and 29 yards, respectively.
The Bison sophomore cornerback had many highlights throughout the season leading up to Saturday's championship. One of those highlights was on a lateral from Colten Heagle after his interception during their 37-24 romp over the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Sept. 24.
"It was a big game for us," Williams said. "We have a lot of people on our team who are from Minnesota."
The win over the Gophers proved to be a defining point in the season as the Herd reeled off wins against top teams in the FCS on its way to the national championship.
Williams had a large part to play for the Bison defensively and on special teams. His seven interceptions led to 39.1 yards per return and three touchdowns. He also had 12 kick returns for 412 yards (34.2 yards per return) and a touchdown.
Williams garnered many postseason awards. Some of those awards include All-American honors through various organizations and media outlets, the 2011 FCS Defensive Back Award and Missouri Valley All-Conference honors. But more than the awards, he cherishes making history with his teammates in a championship season.
"Individual achievements are good—winning all-american, winning DB of the year award—but nothing can compare to the nationial championship," Williams said. "We had a great team, great coaches, great staff. "Everyone was out there. We all bought into what we were doing this year and it paid off."
Williams has been quite familiar with winning from his high school years in Hopkins. He played on the Royals' 31-0 state basketball championship team in 2009 and sees many parallels between the Royals and the Bison.
"When we won state in high school, we all worked hard. We all came into practice, and we were practicing like it was our last," Williams said. "I feel like the best competition we had that year was against ourselves, and it's the same thing this year. We're going against the scout team, and they gave us a good look every single time. Practices were just like games. If you treat practices like games, it only gets easier in the game."
As one of many returning underclassmen, Williams has his sights set on another title when the 2012 season kicks off in September.
"We just need to come in and work hard this offseason, maybe even harder than last," Williams said. "We can't be complacent, we can get hungry because we're trying to win a national championship again this year."