Friday, October 26, 2012

UConn's career sack leader a fan of Trevardo Williams

One of the benefits of UConn's bye week is it has given me some additional time to work on a feature on senior defensive end Trevardo Williams. I just filed the story and it should appear in Sunday's edition of the Register.

Among the people I interviewed for this story is Mark Michaels, whose sack record Williams is on the verge of breaking.

Michaels had 27 sacks from 1982-85 before becoming a coach. Among his stops were gigs at the University of New Haven, Brown, UMas and Fordham. He also had NFL stints with Seattle, Jacksonville and Cleveland. He is currently is in his fifth season on the staff at Ridgeview High in Orange Park, FL. When I asked him if he was planning to make the trip to UConn's next game at South Florida when Williams would break Michaels' record with one sack, he said he would like to do just that.

Here are some of Michaels' thoughts on Williams.

"I have read up on him a little bit through the internet, in the media guide and his background. He is a great player, he has a lot of physical attributes. He comes off the ball, he is quick and he has the flat out speed. He has all the attributes to become an outstanding pass rusher and he has demonstrated that obviously throughout his career.

The game is so much different now. When I played it was primarily I-backs, just not all of the spread offenses you see now a days. People are spreading things out, the protections now are so much more sophisticated. You are seeing more passing. I just feel fortunate I guess that it (the record) has been able to hold up. I guess that is what records are there for – to be broken. I knew it would happen, I am thankful it has been about 25 years. It is kind of ‘where did the time go?’

"Trevardo, from what I heard from people up there, is a class act. I hope he goes onto being an NFL player and I can say that the guy who broke it is playing on Sundays. He deserves it, you don’t get them by accident so he must work extremely hard. He has good coaches up there in Hank (Hughes) and Donnie (Brown). Some of it is just timing and being able to play early. He is a quality kid and he is reaping what he put into UConn football. My hat is off to him. Whatever happens in the next week or two, I’ll feel fortunate that he will probably will get it."

I asked Michaels what he remembers the most from his time playing at UConn.

"Just playing. I have a son playing Pop Warner and just seeing the camaraderie when you are out there, guys that you played with for a while and just the excitement of the game day, the preparation and everything. I look back at some of the coaches. Some of the guys I played with, I still keep in touch with. My first two years I was able to share a conference championship my sophomore year at UConn I was able to play with John Dorsey, Vernon Hargreaves. We had a real good defense and John Dorsey and others that signed NFL contracts. I just have a lot of fond memories of Connecticut, it is not just one thing. A lot of things, just the campus environment, football environment and the academics so I guess it was just the combination of a few things."

With stops in the NFL and in college, I was curious how he enjoys coaching high school ball.

"It is different. I like the people I am working with. We have a good chance to make our state playoffs this year and if we win our next two games we can continue our own fate. That is what you play for, what you coach for regardless of the level, whether it is high school, college or the NFL it is to challenge, compete and win as much as possible."

I also spoke to Bridgeport Central coach Dave Cadelina, who coached Williams in high school and was unable to get much of that interview into my story. It wasn't for lack of good material, that is for sure. Among the highlights was Cadelina recalling an experience with Williams in the weight room.

"He was hardly ever in the weight room. We tried to get him in there a couple of times a week and whenever we could and there were times he could time. I remember one of the initial times. He came in and I was going to introduce him to the power clean. I said we are going to start you off light, you are never in here and we had a week or two in between track indoor track and outdoor track and let’s get a couple of weeks of lifting in and let’s see what you can do. In the middle of my talk, I didn’t even get to demonstrate it. He just grabbed one of his buddies' bars and there was like 225 pounds  on there which is not a ton but for a kid who is just starting to lift ... He lifted it up like it was nothing and he said ‘like this, Coach?’ I said ‘well, yeah kind of like that.’"

I also asked him if he had any particular memories of Williams chasing down an opposing quarterback with the speed that made him one of the state's best 100 meter runners when he was at Bridgeport Central.

"Not as much in high school as we are seeing now. Where we had seen most of the stuff occur is mostly on special teams or on long runs. A team would be returning a kickoff or returning a punt or going around and it looked like they were going for a touchdown and Trevardo came in and you would see No. 40 flying into the picture on the backside some play outside the frame of film. He was a devastating player catching people from behind."


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