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USU football: Anthony Williams went from the boxing ring to the gridiron

Anthony Williams used to punish opponents in the boxing ring. Now, he’s punishing opponents on the gridiron.

Utah State’s senior linebacker turned to boxing when he was younger to help him with his anger issues.

“I had anger problems growing up, so that was a good way to hone my anger,” he said. “I started when I was 8, but then I decided to just stick with football when I was 15. I couldn’t do both.”

The decision to focus solely on football is paying off for Williams, especially in his senior season with the Aggies.

Williams currently leads the team in tackles (73) and is tied for the team lead in quarterback hurries (three) and forced fumbles (one).

“He’s a very athletic linebacker,” linebackers coach Dave Kotulski said. “He’s very physical, he works hard in the weight room and has a good sense for the game.”

What does Williams like better, hitting a running back or knocking somebody out in the ring?

“I have actually asked myself that same question,” he said. “I’ve got to say football. Football is more of a team aspect and boxing is just one man out there for himself; it’s a one-man sport. With football, you learn to play in a team concept and there is a lot of discipline.”

After redshirting in 2015, Williams is just glad to be back on the field helping the Aggies any way he can this year.

“Missing last year was pretty hard,” Williams said. “All I did last year was concentrate on the things I needed to work on like technique and learning the playbook. It was good coming back this year and getting back on the field. It worked out."

It certainly did.

Williams has turned in his best two games as an Aggie the last two times out, recording a career-high 13 tackles against both Wyoming and New Mexico. Earlier this season, he tallied 11 tackles, two quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a sack against Air Force.

During the last three games, Williams is averaging 11.0 tackles. In the four games he has started this season, Williams is averaging 11.0 tackles, but in the six games he hasn’t started, he is only averaging 4.8 stops per game.

“He means a ton to our team,” fellow senior linebacker Brock Carmen said. “He’s a big, physical athletic guy that can make any play on the field. He is definitely somebody that helps us out and makes a ton of plays for us.”

And Kotulski added, “He’ll play hard.”

Williams appreciates being part of a linebacker group that had to replace three starters from a year ago in Kyler Fackrell (now with the Green Bay Packers), Nick Vigil (now with the Cincinnati Bengals) and LT Filiaga.

“With so many linebackers from last year gone,” he said, “they didn’t even know how good we would be. We had a lot of new faces and a lot of young guys that didn’t have very much experience. This year, we’re progressing really well.”

Is there a professional linebacker Williams tries to model his game after?

“Not really one linebacker,” Williams said. “I try to take a lot of things from different linebackers, whether it’s speed, technique, hands or different pass-rushing moves.”

The 6-foot-1, 245-pound native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, transferred to Utah State from Pierce College in Woodland Hills, California. What was it about the Aggies that made him want to join the program?

“The recruiting process is like a rollercoaster and it has a lot of ups and downs, but when I came and took a visit at Utah State, I didn’t really know much about it,” Williams said. “I just connected with the coaches.”

As a junior in 2014, Williams played in 13 games and finished the year with 10 tackles. He made his first career start against San José State and tallied a season-high four tackles, including 0.5 tackles for loss.

Prior to Utah State, Williams recorded 17 tackles, including 4.0 tackles for loss and 1.0 sacks, as a sophomore at Pierce College. He helped the Brahmas to a 9-2 record and second-place finish in the American Pacific Conference of the Southern California Football Association with a 6-1 mark.

Williams spent his freshman season at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he played running back and carried the ball three times for 17 yards.

A standout at Upper Dublin High School in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, Williams earned second-team all-Suburban One American Conference honors at running back during his senior season as he rushed for 602 yards and 11 touchdowns on 133 carries. He was tabbed the Cardinals’ Offensive MVP and RedZone Player of the Year.

Defensively, Williams recorded 150 career tackles and three interceptions at Upper Dublin HS. He helped lead the Cardinals to three-straight conference championships.

The son of Anthony Williams and Nadine Jackson is majoring in interdisciplinary studies and on track to graduate in December.