The highly-anticipated game hadn't started as the Nittany Lion faithful had hoped. On Penn State's first possession against Notre Dame last fall, the Irish forced a turnover and returned it for a touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead. In need of a spark, Derrick Williams again was ready to deliver and energize. Late in the first quarter, he caught a punt near his shoestrings, avoided several would-be tacklers and burst into the open field with a wall of blockers. The immensely talented Williams swung the momentum with his electrifying, zig-zagging 78-yard touchdown return, sending the primetime crowd of 110,078 into a frenzy. The score began a run of 17 consecutive points for the Nittany Lions in the eventual 31-10 thumping of the Irish. The punt return touchdown was the second of his career and earned him the Pontiac Game Changing Performance award for a second time, doing so in a landslide, garnering 52 percent of the votes. The nation's top prep player in 2004, Williams has been a catalyst for the Nittany Lions as a receiver, returner and runner the past three seasons and is eyeing a great 2008. Whether catching, throwing or running with the ball, Williams will be all over the field making plays as he has done throughout his career. A quietly confident and engaging young man who rarely is without a smile, he is a fierce competitor and a primary reason why Penn State's 29-9 record the past three years is among the 15 best in the nation. The charismatic Williams assumed more of a leadership role during off-season workouts and into spring practice and was elected an offensive co-captain for this season. A candidate for the 2008 Biletnikoff Award and other post-season accolades, Williams gained 1,121 all-purpose yards last year, second-highest on the team, averaging a superlative 10.37 yards on his 108 touches. A starter in the last 24 games, he has taken on a larger role in the passing game each of the past two seasons. The highly skilled athlete made a team-high 55 catches for 529 yards and three touchdowns last year, having made 22 catches as a true freshman in 2005, followed by 40 in 2006. Williams enters the season tied for No. 4 on the school career receptions chart with 117, along with classmate Jordan Norwood and Jack Curry (1965-67). The dynamic playmaker also is No. 15 in career receiving yards (1,258), needing 262 yards to crack the top 10. An instinctive player with tremendous speed and vision, he ranked third in the Big Ten in punt returns, averaging 11.0 yards on 23 returns, and gained 6.3 yards per rushing attempt. The confidence Williams exudes is contagious and has helped restore the swagger bred of championship football. In January 2005, he joined another prep All-American, Justin King, in enrolling at the University. Eight months later, in his first Big Ten road game, Williams hauled in a 36-yard game-winning TD with 51 seconds left at Northwestern to help get the Nittany Lions rolling toward the Big Ten Championship. He quickly won the respect of his teammates for his work ethic, maturity and "team-first" demeanor grounded in an affinity for the "old school." Williams is a hard-working and driven student-athlete with his sights set on doing whatever he can to help Penn State capture another national championship. The former Eleanor Roosevelt HS All-American is among seven returning Nittany Lions that were prep standouts in Maryland. Williams is on schedule to graduate in December.
2007 Junior Season
A starter in all 13 games, Williams gained 1,121 all-purpose yards, second-highest on the team. He averaged a superlative 10.37 yards on his 108 touches. Williams continued to take on a larger role in the passing game, making a team-high 55 catches for 529 yards and three touchdowns. He increased his receiving output for the second consecutive season, having made 22 catches as a true freshman in 2005, followed by 40 in 2006. Williams' 55 receptions were tied for No. 3 on the Penn State season list. He ranked third in the Big Ten in punt returns, averaging 11.0 yards on 23 returns. He also had an impressive rushing average, gaining 101 yards on 16 carries, for a 6.3 average, with one touchdown. He made 25 receptions in the last four games, lifting him into a tie for No. 4 on the school career receptions chart with 117 and No. 15 in career receiving yards (1,258). Williams swung the momentum of the Notre Dame game with his career-long 78-yard punt return, eclipsing his 75-yard return for a score against Temple in 2006. He earned the Pontiac Game Changing Performance award for a second time, doing so in a landslide, garnering 52 percent of the votes. At Illinois, Williams made a team-high five receptions for 79 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown and a 47-yard grab. He also had two carries for 20 yards and totaled 112 all-purpose yards. Williams caught a 24-yard scoring strike in the 27-7 win over Iowa. He accumulated 130 all-purpose yards in the important victory at Indiana. He made five catches for 47 yards, had one carry for five yards and returned four kickoffs for 72 yards against the Hoosiers. Williams delivered a superb performance against Purdue on Senior Day. He broke his career-high with 10 receptions and tied a career-high with 95 receiving yards, scoring two touchdowns. He hauled in a five-yard TD pass from Anthony Morelli in the second quarter and carried the ball twice for 21 yards, including a 12-yard TD scamper early in the fourth quarter to give Penn State the lead. His diverse day allowed him to post a career-high 151 all-purpose yards in the 26-19 victory over the Boilermakers. Williams followed with another great effort at Temple, making seven receptions for a career-high 104 yards. He made a sensational, leaping 52-yard reception in the second quarter, the Nittany Lions' longest play from scrimmage all season, to set up a touchdown. Williams led the team with five catches in the Valero Alamo Bowl win over Texas A&M and recorded 41 yards in the return game. He was on the field for 743 snaps, led by 71 against Purdue and 70 at Indiana.
2006 Sophomore Season
Returning to the field after suffering a season-ending injury midway through the 2005 season, Williams again was a catalyst for the Penn State offense and special teams. A starter in 12 games, he was second on the team with 955 all-purpose yards, averaging 9.1 yards on his 105 touches. Williams made 40 receptions for 440 yards, giving Penn State a trio of players with 40 or more catches in a season for the first time. He had 36 carries for 145 yards (includes a sack when lined up at quarterback), 25 punt returns for a 12.0 average (second-best in the Big Ten), four kickoff returns for a 17.2 average and one pass attempt. Having narrowly missed breaking a lengthy punt return several times earlier in the season, Williams made a big play in the first quarter against Temple. He fielded a punt at the Penn State 25, reversed his field and burst 75 yards for the score, Penn State's first punt return TD since Bryant Johnson against Michigan State in 2002. Williams returned to action against Akron in the season-opener and picked right up where he was prior to suffering a broken arm in the 2005 Michigan game. He gained 116 all-purpose yards on 10 touches against the Zips. He caught three passes for 49 yards, including a 20-yard scoring strike from Anthony Morelli in the third quarter. He returned one kickoff 19 yards and three punts 44 yards, including a 28-yarder where he was just tripped up and likely would have scored. Williams had a career-high nine carries, posted 56 yards rushing with a touchdown, added one catch for 18 yards and two punt returns (one, a 56-yard return, was called back on a clipping penalty) in Penn State's 37-3 win over Youngstown State. Williams delivered a superb performance at Minnesota, gaining a career-best 95 yards on four receptions, rushing for 22 yards and returning two punts for 18 yards for a career-best 135 all-purpose yards. In the second quarter, he hauled in a 56-yard strike from Anthony Morelli for his longest career reception. Three of his four catches were good for first downs. In overtime, Williams took a handoff around left end at the Gophers' 13-yard line and looked like he would be tackled around the seven, but maintained his balance and fell forward to the two for a first down. Two plays later, Tony Hunt barreled through the line to tie the game at 27-27 before Kevin Kelly's game-winning PAT. Williams tied his career-high with six receptions for 67 yards in the 17-10 setback to Michigan. Williams also gained 38 yards on four punt returns against the Wolverines and totaled 110 all-purpose yards. In the Outback Bowl win over Tennessee, he made three catches and delivered a 20-yard punt return into Volunteer territory to set up a big Kevin Kelly field goal for a 20-10 lead late in the game. Williams saw action on 659 plays, led by 65 against Northwestern and 60 each at Notre Dame and at Purdue.
2005 Freshman Season
Williams made an immediate impact when he joined the Nittany Lions for the 2005 spring semester. While he was sidelined for Penn State's final five games (including the Orange Bowl) after breaking his left arm while returning a kickoff late in the game at Michigan, Williams' speed, athleticism and winning persona jump-started Penn State's drive to the Big Ten Championship and helped diversify what developed into a very potent offense. Named to The Sporting News Freshman All-Big Ten team, he had six plays of 20 yards or more and averaged 11.7 yards on his 57 touches. Williams lined up at wideout, flanker and in the backfield and demonstrated his ability to beat teams running and receiving. No play was bigger than his first career touchdown, a game-winning 36-yard catch and run with 51 seconds remaining at Northwestern that gave Penn State a 34-29 come-from-behind victory. The electrifying connection from Michael Robinson was one of five finalists for the "Pontiac Game-Changing Play-of-the-Year." He also returned three kickoffs for 78 yards, highlighted by a 33-yard return in the first quarter, and had 42 yards on two catches against the Wildcats. At the time of his injury, he was the Lions' leading receiver with 22 catches for 289 yards and one touchdown. He also had 22 carries for 105 yards and three touchdowns and returned 13 kickoffs for a 21.1-yard average. Despite missing the last five contests, he accumulated 668 all-purpose yards to rank fourth on the squad. A starter in the initial seven games, Williams ran for Penn State's first two touchdowns (improvising on a 13-yard TD on an option pitch and scoring on a five-yard reverse) in the 44-14 win over Minnesota. He electrified the prime time Beaver Stadium throng when he turned the corner and bolted 13 yards for Penn State's first score in the huge 17-10 win over Ohio State. He made a season-high six receptions for 59 yards, returned two kickoffs for 22 yards and ran for eight yards before his injury at Michigan. Against Cincinnati, he pulled in four catches for a team-leading 60 yards (including a 41-yard grab), gained 23 yards on three carries with a 20-yard long run and returned three kickoffs for 61 yards, including a 26-yarder. Against Central Michigan, he caught two passes for 47 yards, including a 33-yarder, and returned two kickoffs for 62 yards, including a season-best return of 56 yards. Williams was on the field for 387 snaps over the initial seven games, led by 69 at Northwestern.
Williams fashioned a tremendous career for Coach Rick Houchens at Eleanor Roosevelt HS in suburban Washington, D.C. He was a consensus All-American and was named the Rivals.com and G&W Recruiting Report National Player-of-the-Year. An All-USA Today selection, Williams also was an All-Met choice by the Washington Post. Parade Magazine honored him as an All-American all-purpose player. During his senior season of 2004, Williams was 56-of-91 for 972 yards and 13 touchdown passes, ran for 1,123 yards and 12 touchdowns and caught 11 passes for 203 yards and two more scores. He also accumulated 479 punt return yards and added another score. As a defensive back, he had four interceptions and 34 tackles. In his junior year, he rushed for 1,350 yards and 28 touchdowns and threw for 700 yards and five scores. Williams also recorded 46 tackles, 13 pass breakups, three interceptions and three fumble recoveries in 2003. He also gained 760 return yards. In 2004, Williams was the subject of a series of stories in the Washington Post on his senior season and recruitment. Williams also was an accomplished sprinter on the track and field squad.
Full name is Derrick Dwanye Williams. He is the son of Dwight and Brinda Williams. He has an older brother, Domonique, who played running back and quarterback at North Carolina and finished his career at North Carolina A&T. Williams is enrolled in the recreation, park and tourism management program. Born July 6, 1986 in Washington, D.C.