Scottie Williams was a quiet, undersized running back when he arrived on Elmhurst’s campus in 2009 for his first summer of football workouts with the Bluejays—the kind of player it might be easy to overlook. But whenever the team lined up to run sprints, Williams became hard to ignore.
It wasn’t just that Williams won most of the races. It was the way he ran.
“We would tell everyone to run hard through the finish line, to go two yards past it,” remembers Kyle Derickson, a Bluejay assistant coach. “Scottie would go five yards beyond the finish. He was all about effort.” Doing more than is asked of him has been Williams’s style ever since he came to Elmhurst. It has produced impressive results, on and off the football field.
Williams entered his senior year already holding the College record for single-season rushing yards (1,374 yards in 2011), a total that ranked him 11th in the nation among NCAA Division III ball carriers. He was an all-conference honoree in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin in each of his first three seasons at Elmhurst. He needs just 405 more rushing yards to become Elmhurst’s all-time career rushing leader.
Williams has excelled in the classroom, too. A marketing major, he was named a Capital One First Team Academic All-American in 2011. More impressive still, Williams has achieved all this while maintaining a busy schedule of community service projects in Elmhurst and beyond. During his time at the College, Williams has helped build homes for the needy, worked with children at a summer Bible school, raised funds for programs that support people with disabilities and even sorted through trash on campus as part of an audit of the College’s recycling efforts. His efforts have earned him a nomination to the Allstate Good Works Team, an honor that recognizes outstanding community service and volunteerism among college football players.
Williams says his commitment to service and hard work was instilled in him by his parents. The son of a pastor and a teacher, Williams was raised to go out of his way to help people.
“Ever since I was little, my parents have been teaching me that if you see someone who needs help, you hop up and take it upon yourself,” Williams says. “They taught me that it doesn’t hurt to do the small things that make a difference.”
Williams was raised in Alabama and Mississippi, before his family moved north in 2001, when his father became pastor of Chicago’s Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church. He grew up contending with the unique pressures of being a pastor’s son.
“In some of the communities I grew up in, the church is all you have,” he said. “People watch the pastor and his family closely. It’s like living in a microscope.”
Williams welcomed the scrutiny. And as he matured into a standout prep football player at Downers Grove South High School in Woodridge, he increasingly became a center of attention. His football skills attracted the interest of some Division I colleges, but his diminutive size (5’6”, 170 pounds) made him a better fit for a Division III program. He settled on Elmhurst partly because he wanted his family to be able to attend his games without traveling. But he was also sold on the recruiting pitch of then-new coach Tim Lester.
“I wanted to be a part of starting a new winning tradition at Elmhurst,” Williams said. “That’s what drives me. If we don’t get a championship this year, it will be a major disappointment.”
Williams has been doing more than talking about championships. Derickson calls Williams a tireless worker and a team leader.
“He’s been in here more than anyone this summer, looking at game film,” Derickson said. “His peers see how he works. He doesn’t say a lot, but when he talks, it’s like they’re standing at attention.”
Williams’s work ethic extends beyond the football field. One of the highlights of his time at Elmhurst was the spring break trip he made this year to Starkville, Mississippi, where he built homes with Habitat for Humanity. The trip was a kind of homecoming for Williams—he lived in Starkville as a boy.
“This was my chance to give something back to the community in Starkville,” he said. While in Mississippi, he helped build two homes. “We helped make someone’s life better. It’s great to be able to say that.”
After graduation, Williams hopes to launch a career in marketing. But before then, he has some unfinished business to complete—helping bring a football championship to Elmhurst College.