Role Reversal: Williams uses 2010 lessons in 2011 season
September 28, 2011
NORTH LITTLE ROCK Kendall Williams can empathize with teammate Altee Tenpenny's current spot.
Williams, a senior running back, was in the same situation last season. After gaining 532 yards and scoring four touchdowns in 2010, Williams was forced to watch from the sidelines for the last half of the season following a high-ankle sprain in a Week 6 victory over Little Rock Central. As a result, Tenpenny ramped up his production, finishing with over 1,200 yards.
Now, with Tenpenny sitting out all of this season to this point with a broken ankle suffered in the preseason, it's now Williams who has had to become the de facto back in the Charging Wildcats run-heavy attack.
He's ready. And he keeps the lessons learned from being forced to watch his team make the late-season push without his services last season with him into every practice and game.
"I ain't gonna lie, it was hard," Williams, a senior, said. "But when it got better, I just focused on my team. Because when it happened, I was so worried about, 'ok, I need to get my chance (to play), I need to get my chance.' And I think that's why it happened. Instead of worrying about the team, I was worried me getting put out there."
"And when I was injured, (Tenpenny) hopped in, he took the load. So when this season came up, and I'm healthy, I just had to stay focused on my team."
The 6-0, 215-pound Williams has run for 413 yards and 5 touchdowns so far this season, both team highs. His team-leading 103.3 yards per game shows Williams is stepping into the feature-back role, which is encouraging, considering the fact that Williams and Tenpenny were set to get balanced amounts of playing time before the season.
"That's the way he's been all season," North Little Rock coach Brad Bolding said. "You know, they were going to get equal time, so he worked. Nothing's really changed other than someone else has stepped up in Altee's spot. So, as far as him now being the guy that carries the ball most, it really didn't (change)."
What has changed is Williams' perspective concerning his place on the team. Before last season's injury, Williams admitted he put himself before the team at times. After spending the final half of last season out, Williams puts the team first now, which he said has helped the production, essentially come to him.
"I'm a team player, I put the team first," Williams said. "So when (Tenpenny) went down I was like ' dang'. But I already knew from the get-go, hey I've got to step up. So each week I've got to tell myself to get better, make sure the team is alright, before I take care of myself."
Given his experiences, Williams said he can now turn to Tenpenny and give him advice on how to deal with the frustration of not being on the field.
Williams has also been aided by the play of senior quarterback Kaylon Cooper in the team's run-based attack — he has 272 yards and four touchdowns on the ground this season — and the contributions of Rodney Bryson (257 yards, third on the team), helping North Little Rock to a 3-1 record, their lone loss coming in the season opener, 49-14 to Class 7A defending champion Bentonville.
While he expected production from Williams, billed as a power back to Tenpenny's speed back before the season, Cooper has been pleasantly surprised at Williams through the first four games.
"He's stepped up better than I thought he would," Cooper said. "I feel like, I mean, Tenpenny would help us out a lot.But right now, I'm going to say we need him, because Kendall has stepped up a whole lot more than I thought he was going to do."
But Williams knows that Tenpenny or no Tenpenny, he and the team won't have time to worry about it. The Charging Wildcats head to Conway this week and still have home dates with Little Rock Central and Bryant, and a return match-up at Little Rock Catholic, this time with a conference win on the line.
"Everybody's focused with us," Williams said. "We're one team, you've got to be one. You can't have no bad practices, everybody's got to be focused. You can't come out here lazy and think, 'well, this team we've got, they're good, but we're better.' We've got to keep proving something everyday."