From an outside perspective, Utah State’s dramatic 44-41 victory over New Mexico on Friday in double overtime and the deciding game may have seemed like the beginning of quarterback Levi Williams’ comeback story.
The third-string quarterback broke out for 351 all-purpose yards and five total touchdowns in his first start since 2021, and he still has one year of college eligibility remaining.
But the dynamic performance that punched the Aggies’ ticket to bowl season is more of a fairy-tale ending to the final chapter of his football book because Williams intends to forgo his final year of college eligibility to pursue the dream of becoming a Navy SEAL. Williams will complete his Master of Business Administration at the USU business school in December.
“He has always been in my heart throughout my life. My mother was military. “My grandparents were in the Army and Navy,” she said. “I always want to emulate the people in the military because they are some of the best people and the best teams on the planet.”
The 22-year-old made the decision about two years ago when a Navy chaplain spoke at a Williams attended the Community of Christian Athletes meeting. Williams was deciding between the Navy and Army Special Forces when the chaplain connected him with a former SEAL whom he now trains with and considers a mentor.
It’s an unconventional path for an athlete who was rated a three-star prospect coming out of high school and still has the skills to find success on the football field, but Utah State coach Blake Anderson says it’s clearly an option for Williams.
“The guy is just unique in every way. I think his true sense of selflessness and fighting for the guy next to him is something tangible and real. You can see it,” Anderson said. “His ability to work and do difficult things and fight through things that are hard and difficult and painful is something that, in our society today, is hard to see. I think he’ll do an amazing job. I can’t imagine having anyone better prepared for what he wants to do. I am very proud of the path he has chosen.”
Before Friday, Williams was buried on the depth chart and played almost exclusively on special teams. Transferred from Wyoming, Williams became the first quarterback to rush for 200 yards and four touchdowns in a bowl while leading the Cowboys to a victory in 2021 Famous Idaho potato dish. But with Utah State, he entered the season regressing. Cooper Legas and McCae Hillstead.
When both quarterbacks went down due to injury, Williams stepped in and the Aggies adjusted their offense to better suit his big arm strength and ability to make plays with his feet. Although Anderson said Williams previously struggled with consistency in practice this season, he approached the starting role with quiet confidence. Not even a car accident the Tuesday before the game could calm his nerves. Another driver stopped in front of Williams on the highway and totaled his car, he said, but he walked away without a scratch and took it as an omen.
“I was telling my head coach, ‘You know what? I think this is a sign that God really wants me to play in this game, because if not, it could have been a lot worse,’” he said.
Williams carried that swagger into the game and shared it with his teammates.
“When New Mexico decided to kick a field goal in the second overtime, I looked at everyone on the sidelines and said, ‘Okay, we’re going to win this game. That was a big mistake on their part.’”
He then sealed the victory with a 13-yard touchdown run on a play that started with a snap.
– Mountain West (@MountainWest) November 25, 2023
Depending on what bowl game the Aggies get, Williams says he plans to play. The Athletic predicts that Utah State will face Georgia State in the famous Idaho Potato Bowl on December 23rd. which may mean Williams could come full circle on the spot of her previous record-breaking performance. Either way, he’ll be happy with the end of his college career.
“I feel like I’m playing with the house money right now,” he said. “So I’m just having as much fun as I can and being the best teammate I can.”
(Photo: Sam Wasson/Getty)