Keenan Williams is making up for lost time. Placed in a group home as a teenager, Williams says he grew up in a strict lockdown environment — limited phone calls on a payphone, quick showers, lights out early. He wasn’t encouraged to play sports, much less attend college.
“I was in a system at the time where we didn’t get to really participate in any extracurricular activities,” he says. “After high school, I spent the first two-to-three years partying, trying to be an actor and musician since my group home didn’t allow us to explore and try new things.”
Now 41 years old, Williams is trying his next new thing: community college football. Intently focused on a dream of one day playing in the NFL, Williams is in his first year as a full-time student and red-shirt wide receiver for the Dons. He is older than most of his teammates by at least two decades.
Williams played some baseball and golf as a child, but decided he wanted to give football a shot after attending the funeral of a former co-worker. There, he noticed a bucket list of everything his co-worker tried to accomplish before his passing and was inspired to create his own. “I want to try to accomplish as much as possible while I still have the chance too,” he says.
He enrolled at SAC this fall and tried to sign-up to play baseball, but because of age restrictions, he wasn’t allowed. Williams has since carved out a new life as a student-athlete, attending class most days and practicing 15 hours a week with the football team.
Head coach Adam Nyssen praised Williams for his efforts, despite Williams having no real background in organized, tackle football and not yet seeing the field during conference play.
“Williams is a very hard worker, a great teammate and supporter and knows he’ll see the field once we get him going in the system and learning the fundamentals of contact football,” Nyssen says.
Despite a heavy learning curve, Williams remains positive and is grateful to be in the position he is today, getting advice from Los Angeles Chargers players and taking to his Instagram account to show off his progress. His motivational messages hinge on the belief that no
matter your age, you can still achieve anything if your heart and mind are in the right place.
“I’m starving to get on that field,” he says. “I’m being patient and it’s not up to me, but the best thing I can do is wait for the opportunity to present itself and control what only I can control.”