Brother tandem boosts Northwestern defense
During the 2004 football season, Central Catholic coaches decided it was time to unleash defensive end Quentin Williams. He was only a freshman.
Terry Totten, then an assistant and now the head coach at Central, remembers people asking Quentin's brother Nate, a star junior at the time, about the advisability of such a move.
"Nate gave us a look like, 'He will do his job. Don't worry about him,' " Totten said.
In the final regular-season game, Quentin handled Baldwin offensive lineman Jason Pinkston, now a starter at Pitt; went on to play a key role in the first of Central's two PIAA Class AAAA championships in four seasons; and strengthened an unshakeable bond with his brother.
These days, they are part of the Northwestern defense that will challenge Penn State in a 3:30 p.m. game Saturday at Beaver Stadium. They are the first brother combination on the school's football team in 14 years.
Nate, a fifth-year senior who stands 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, has been a starting middle linebacker for the past 2 1/2 seasons. He led the team in tackles last season (7.2 per game). Quentin, a 6-4, 250-pound redshirt sophomore, starts part-time at left defensive end.
Totten, who plans to attend the game, said the brothers are models for the values he wants the Central program to reflect. When they return to work out with current Central players, their message is the same, Totten said.
"Stay the course, get your school work done first, listen to coaches, work hard," he said.
Such a mindset has served both players well at Northwestern, one of the toughest academic institutions in the United States.
"They always told us the hardest part is getting in," said Quentin, a political science major. "Doing well in high school is half the battle. Once you get here, you see things come naturally."
A typical day for a Northwestern football player begins at 6:10 a.m. when the team reports to the training facility. Between practices and meetings, they don't stop until lunch. Then, the afternoon and evenings are filled with class, study and sleep until the alarm rings the next morning.
Nate and Quentin have accepted additional responsibility as members of the team's leadership council that meets regularly with coach Pat Fitzgerald.
Quentin has played right field on Northwestern's baseball team, but that may end this spring to reduce "wear and tear" on his body, he said.
Nate, who is majoring in learning and organizational change, is second on the team with 51 tackles, 5 1/2 for a loss.
"He is tough, physical and a tremendous leader," Fitzgerald said.
Quentin, with an interception and 1 1/2 tackles for a loss, is still learning the college game, but Totten has high expectations.
"Quentin's highlight film is something I keep and bring out every now and then," he said. "It is just amazing to see him hurry the passer and get downfield and get in on the tackle. It's 100 percent determination and dedication."
The game Saturday will give the brothers an opportunity to compete against former Central Catholic teammate Stefen Wisniewski, the Nittany Lions' starting right guard.
The three remain friends and talk often, except this week.
Wisniewski said the Williams haven't changed much since high school.
"Both are really tough kids, great hustlers," he said. "I see that in them now. They are always fighting, refusing to get blocked and hustling their butt off to get to the ball."
Nate appreciates the sentiment, but when asked if he had a message for Wisniewski, he said, "Tell him to strap it up."