Playing quarterback at Yale can prove challenging, especially for the few freshmen who have gone under center, but Eric Williams ’16 appears up to the challenge.
The rookie signal caller has already led the Bulldogs to a historic 24–21 win at Georgetown last Saturday. He connected with wide receiver Cameron Sandquist ’14 for a record-breaking 98-yard touchdown pass, but Sandquist said it was his confidence that has been the most impressive.
“From the get-go you could tell that he had some leadership qualities. He took control of the offense,” Sandquist said.
Williams’ leadership ability has also caught the eye of head coach Tony Reno. It was one reason that Reno decided to name Williams the starter against Georgetown over the more experienced John Whitelaw ’14, who quit the team in the wake of that decision.
Reno added that Williams’ attitude does not fluctuate with his play, allowing him to stay in control despite his inexperience.
“[Williams] managed the game pretty well,” Reno said after Saturday’s victory. “He made a few mistakes, but the key with Eric was that he made the mistakes but he kept playing. For a young guy to have some negative experiences during the game, but to not change his demeanor or who he was — he just kept playing.”
Williams credited his level-headedness on the field to his brother Scott Williams ’13 and his father, Larry Williams.
Larry Williams played football at the University of Notre Dame before going on to be an offensive lineman in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns, San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots.
“He really didn’t force us to play football at all,” Williams said of his father. “He definitely did serve as our mentor once we started playing football. We listened to him in terms of how to get better.”
Their father’s advice must have worked, because Eric is the third Williams son to don the blue and white. Scott Williams is a linebacker and Sean Williams ’11 was a defensive end for the Elis.
Eric said the biggest advantage to having an older brother on the team has been the advice given to him on how to manage his schoolwork. He added that watching his oldest brother play at Yale is what inspired him to come to Yale.
His brothers’ influence, combined with academic reasons, are what led Eric to turn down scholarships from the University of Cincinnati and the University of Toledo.
“I was really interested in my academic career,” Eric said. “I know Yale offers a way better opportunity in that realm than Cincy or Toledo could.”
Sandquist added that having a brother on the team helped the younger Williams acquaint himself with the team.
Eric is no stranger to meeting new teammates or learning a new offense, however, since he did the same thing before his senior year of high school.
He transferred from Jesuit High School in Portland, Ore., to football powerhouse St. Ignatius in Cleveland.
“I liked it out there [in Oregon],” Eric said. “But coming into my senior year I wasn’t fitting in there academically or athletically.”
Eric led St. Ignatius to its 11th Division I State Football championship, but it turns out he had athletic dreams beyond the gridiron. Until his junior year of high school, Williams said he wanted to play basketball in college. Luckily for Yale, he chose football.
Williams and the Bulldogs will next play on Saturday, Sept. 22, when they travel to Cornell.