Sept. 20, 2000
Position: Free Safety
Hometown: Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
High School: Bay St. Louis
"Fill it up" is the term most of us use when getting gas for our cars. Stanford junior starting free safety Tank Williams always seems to have his tank full. No, we are not talking about filling up at the local gas station. This "Tank" is fueled with football, family... and milk.
The origination of the nickname "Tank" came when Clevan Williams (a.k.a. Tank) was just an infant. As a toddler, Williams was known to go through eight-ounce bottles of milk at an alarming rate.
"When I was a baby, my mom had to continue to give me bottle after bottle of milk," Williams fondly recalled. "My sister said to my mother, 'You have to give him so many bottles of milk, why don't you just give him a tank of milk.' That stuck, and I guess it kind of transformed into the "Tank" for football, but it started off as just Tank drinking milk."
Tank quickly moved from drinking milk to playing football and by the age of six was already in a local youth league that was founded by his father, Clevand. From the beginning, football and family were deeply intertwined. Clevand was the long-time head football coach at Bay St. Louis High School in Mississippi, where Tank later was a two-time first team All-District choice. Clevand, who retired from high school coaching before Tank's prep career began, is currently the athletic director at nearby Pass Christian High School.
"He was basically still my coach in high school," said Tank about his father, who did coach his son in the youth league he founded. "Once you have a coach for a Dad, he's a coach all the way through. He was a big help during high school football and the recruiting process as well. He always tells me to go after what I want and to just believe I can achieve things."
Clevand has had a positive influence not only on his own son's life but on the lives of thousands of youths who were fortunate enough to play football in the small Mississippi town of Bay St. Louis.
"I felt that I should be doing something for the small kids in the community," said Clevand about his decision to begin the youth football league that gave a young Tank his first chance to play tackle football. "As for Tank, he has been playing football since he was a third-grader. When Tank started with the youth league, he was about the youngest person out there. I think Tank was in the program the longest because he was so young when he got started."
Tank's introduction to football came even earlier than the age of six.
"When my dad was coaching, even before I started playing football, I would be out there on the field with his team," remembered Tank. "I was a ball boy, so I ran the balls out and tossed it around with the players at a young age. I've loved the game since I was a little boy."
Tank is not the only member of his family who loves the game of football. The love of the game in the Williams' family runs much deeper than father and son. Tank's mother, Rosie, is part of what Tank affectionately calls "The Williams Crew". She rarely misses one of Tank's games and usually brings along all four of her sisters. Tank's sister, Lawankia, is also one of his big fans. The group, which sits in the section for families of Stanford players at almost every home game, displays homemade signs that they have worked on the night before. Rosie made a sign that said "Eye Smell Roses" before Stanford's Big Game victory over California last year that sent the Cardinal to its first Rose Bowl since 1972.
"They come and they yell really loud," said Tank with family pride. "It's amazing. I remember they came to the Oregon State game last year. I was on the field, and I could just hear my aunts screaming at me. I could hear them from the stands, and I'm like 'Yeah, that's my family.' They're big supporters and big fans. I've had family support since I was really young."
|Stanford's starting free safety for most of the 1999 and 2000 seasons...Recorded 45 tackles, a pair of sacks and an interception in his first season as a starter in 1999...Currently ranked tied for fourth on the team with nine unassisted tackles this year.|
"I could just picture my father watching the game and then all of them standing up just hoopin' and hollerin' next to him," Tank continued with a laugh.
Despite their outspoken nature, "The Williams Crew" is much more than just a loud group of family members.
"They are really outspoken," acknowledged Clevand. "They are going to speak their peace and they are football fanatics. Sometimes, they will say things that they shouldn't be saying, but they are really knowledgeable. They have been around football their entire life."
"The Williams Crew" has followed Tank's progress through the youth leagues of his hometown to Bay St. Louis High School and now to his current position as a hard-hitting starting free safety with the Cardinal. Williams moved into his current starting spot at the beginning of his sophomore season after showing promising signs as an often-used reserve in his freshman year. He collected 45 tackles in his sophomore campaign despite missing two games and not starting in three additional contests due to a mid-season foot injury. He returned to the starting lineup for the team's Rose Bowl appearance.
This season, Williams has become one of the team's primary defensive leaders.
"You have your vocal leaders like Willie (Howard) and Riall (Johnson) who talk to the team and get them going," stated Williams as he began to talk about his own leadership qualities. "I consider myself a leader that goes out there and plays or leads by example. I talk and let the team know how I feel, but I try to lead by example. I try to practice hard and hopefully carry the team along with me in that aspect."
Not only does Williams practice hard, but he also hits hard as several wide receivers from opposing teams have discovered when trying to catch passes in the middle of the Stanford defensive secondary.
"If you come across the middle and you want to catch the ball, you're going to have to pay for it," said Williams. "You have to flip a switch when you get out there. That's the main thing about competing in big-time college football. I'm a happy-go-lucky guy, but, once we hit the field, I hit the switch and everyone's the enemy."
Tank seems well in control of the switch, posing as a mild-mannered Clark Kent by day and wearing a big "S" on his jersey during games. He might not quite be Superman, but he is very well thought of by his father.
"Tank wasn't a type of child we had to worry about getting into trouble," said Clevand with lots of pride. "If you want a model child, I would say Tank has been a model. I never had a bit of trouble out of him."
Tank may no be no trouble for his father or immediate family members, but he's been causing plenty of havoc for opposing wide receivers.
by Kyle McRae