weather icon Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

UNLV’s Charles Williams balances football, fatherhood

Updated August 5, 2021 - 6:21 pm

The demands of being a football player at UNLV and a young father collided on Tuesday for senior running back Charles Williams.

It meant he couldn’t accompany his four-month-old daughter, Kamiyah, to her doctor’s appointment.

She was due for a round of booster shots and Williams didn’t want to miss out on the milestone. So when he finally had his first break of the day, he FaceTimed his girlfriend, Mika, with the hope of comforting his baby girl: “Hey, you’re going to be OK. … These shots are going to go well,” he told her.

“That was something to me like ‘Yeah, this dude gets it,’” said David Wedley, who works with the football team as a director of student-athlete academic services. “He understands. He’s mature. It’s the final stamp of approval for this young man and what everybody thinks of him.”

Williams is back at UNLV for his sixth and final season as one of the most productive players in school history. He’s the program’s first academic All-American. He’ll juggle graduate courses this fall with his family and football as he approaches the school’s career rushing record.

Duties befit for one of the program’s leaders

“He’s mature. He’s got a good voice in the locker room. … Those are culture things that are going to resonate,” said Rebels coach Marcus Arroyo. “I’m excited to see him healthy in our system.”

One last ride

A native of Fresno, California, Williams was not recruited by his hometown Fresno State Bulldogs. Hence his commitment to UNLV, where he arrived in 2016 determined to start at running back.

He led the Rebels that year with 793 yards, but missed most of 2017 with an injury and ceded starting duties in 2018 to Lexington Thomas. He broke out in 2019 with 1,257 yards en route to All-Mountain West honors.

Williams’ decision to return in 2021 was two-fold. One, he wanted a full 12-game slate to prove himself to NFL evaluators. And two, he didn’t want to leave UNLV the way he left it last season.

The Rebels went 0-6 and Williams was limited to 495 yards as he adjusted to a new coaching staff and offensive scheme.

“Six games, it’s not enough for me. I need 12,” said Williams, who, with 2,940 career rushing yards, needs 794 to eclipse the school record. “This year is a full schedule and I’m able to take advantage of a full opportunity.”

A full offseason surely helped prepare Williams for his final college season — and life beyond football. Kamiyah was born in April and Williams has embraced the joys of fatherhood, using it as motivation for what he envisions as a productive 2021 campaign.

“My daughter is always first, but football, training and everything — that has to be my main priority,” he said last month at Mountain West media days. “That’s what’s going to help get the bills paid … That’s going to help us get started. … It’s the only thing I’m focused on … getting straight to it.”

With that said, Williams’ focus in the classroom has never waned. Last month he was one of four running backs named to CoSIDA’s 2020-21 academic All-America team.

Wedley said Williams’ academic approach mirrors that of his approach on the field: a patient start with a strong finish that included four consecutive semesters on the dean’s list.

“We’ve had a lot of individuals come through here and set records,” Wedley said. “We’ve had quite a few individuals come through here who have started their families while they were student-athletes here. We’ve had a lot of students come through with a lot of academic success.

“But you don’t see all three of those in combination. (Williams) is the unicorn of a program and maybe of a career. … These dudes don’t come around often. It’s a privilege to be able to work with him.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.