By day, Marvin Williams is a mild-mannered senior accountant in the sponsored programs office in Jesse Hall. But during football season, he changes into a rough-and-tumble defensive line coach for Columbia’s Rock Bridge High School Bruins.
A Columbia native, Williams graduated from Hickman High School in 2002. He attended Missouri Western College in St. Joseph, Mo., for three semesters. He then attended MU for two years beginning in fall 2004. During his second year on campus, he was a walk-on for the football Tigers playing defensive tackle.
The game took a toll on Williams, whose playing weight was 300 pounds, and he quit football and transferred to Central Methodist University in Fayette, Mo. “You have to hit someone every play,” Williams said of playing tackle. “It is very demanding on your body.”
In 2007 he earned a bachelor’s in finance with a minor in mathematics from Central Methodist. Soon after, he was hired by the sponsored programs office.
This year marks Williams’ fifth year with Rock Bridge coaching varsity football. “It is an opportunity to give back to the kids,” he said. “It is fun and keeps me connected with the sports world, so it gives me my football fix.”
He is responsible for making sure the athletes are prepared each week — going over drills, teaching the defensive line how to block, and developing and executing game plans.
But Williams also prepares the players for the challenges of life. “I give them knowledge about the game I wish I would have gotten in high school,” he said. “I try to be a role model from the standpoint of someone who stayed out of trouble.”
He teaches athletes to respect themselves and others. “One of the ways I do that is to show them respect as well,” Williams said. “I don’t treat them like kids, but like the young adults they are. They value me, not out of fear but out of respect, and they don’t want to let me down or disappoint me.”
Through personal experience, Williams learned the importance of a good education and that there are other avenues besides sports in which to be successful. “The majority of us need those other avenues,” Williams said.
Like many athletes, Williams envisioned being part of the NFL draft before he was injured. “A lot of people thought I might make it coming out of high school,” he said.
Being extremely talented in sports does not guarantee athletes that they are going to make a career in sports, he said. [High school football] players want to make it [to the NFL], and it would be great if they did. But they still have to have a backup plan once that phase of their life is over.
“The NFL is a dream, but you don’t want to be so blinded by those dreams that you don’t do other things necessary to make sure you are successful and have a good life,” Williams said.
A successful season often is reward enough for the team and its fans. But Williams gets a deeper satisfaction from coaching.
“Seeing the athletes grow and transform from where they started their high school careers to where they finish, and to see them develop as young men is rewarding to me,” he said. “It is a joy to be around the kids. They teach you a lot, and they grow on you. It is good to have those kinds of relationships with kids.”
— Sue Richardson