By ALEX OTTE
Avery Williamson is a football player born in 1992 in Cleveland, Ohio. Williamson began his football career and attended high school in Milan, Tenn. The young linebacker was named Region Defensive Player of the Year as both a junior and a senior, and was named one of the top 15 players in Tennessee by Rivals.com (a popular website documenting the ratings of popular athletic recruits).
As a junior, Williamson set a state championship record with 22 tackles in the title game. As a senior, the Jackson Sun named Williamson West Tennessee Player of The Year.
Williamson went on to continue his football career in college at the University of Kentucky. Beginning his freshman year, Williamson saw playing time in every game, and in his junior and senior seasons he led the team in tackles. His junior season he was also second in the Southeastern Conference for tackles. In his 2013 senior season, Williamson started in 11 of 12 games and was named a captain for all 12.
While recognizing Williamson’s great success, and that of others, here at Kentucky, it is difficult to ignore Kentucky football’s struggling record over the last few seasons. After talking to Williamson and other former players, it is impossible to pretend that the players have no regard or disappointment for the outcome of many of their games.
The direction of the last few seasons has inevitably been hard on the players themselves (as well as staff, fans, etc.), and likely drove many to a point of uncertainty. For a lot of students, however, part of their motivation to attend UK is unrelated to the prospect of winning football games.
For Williamson, a big reason that he had to attend the University of Kentucky was the feeling of home when he visited. He talks about Randall Cobb being a great guy, which helped make his decision more solid.
Losing games is hard on a team from every facet, and Williamson said that the struggle to win was the most difficult part about playing at UK.
“It’s never fun losing, so it was rough my last two years,” Williamson reminisces on the hard parts of his career here.
With the justified uncertainty surrounding a struggling program with hopes of playing professionally, athletes transfer all the time; an understandable career move. Upon being asked if and when he largely considered leaving Kentucky, Williamson talks about how he did seriously consider leaving for the NFL draft after his powerful junior season.
“I was marked as a very late round to free agent. I wanted to get drafted so I stayed,” he said.
Having reached the NFL, having played at the University of Kentucky has got to be more nostalgic than regretful for an accomplished athlete who came out with 181 total tackles in his first two NFL seasons with the Tennessee Titans.
“I’m thankful for them offering me a full scholarship because no other SEC school had faith in me,” Williamson says of what he is most thankful for about having attended the University of Kentucky.
He also spoke highly of the relationships he made and the people he met here.
It is not uncommon for people to be inspired by someone or something in their life. Williamson, when asked about if there was a crucial part in getting him to the NFL, explains that his father helped him a lot. His father initially convinced him to commit to the University, and when Williamson was discouraged about losing or about playing time and was considering going elsewhere, his father convinced him to stick it out at Kentucky and to train for the combine.
“He kept me grounded and still helps me with decisions to this day,” Williamson said of his father.