Who the Hawkeyes play, and when. Tyler Davis/The Register
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Spencer Williams needed only one season to position himself to fill a vital role on the Iowa football team.
The redshirt freshman from Cedar Falls was nowhere to be found on Iowa’s spring depth chart. This summer, Williams is front and center — listed right below James Daniels in the middle of the Hawkeyes' offensive line.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Williams said at the team's Aug. 5 media day, struggling to contain a grin. “I’ve been working really hard. Everyone’s been helping me out a ton.”
It’s been a remarkable transition for Williams, a 6-foot-3, 295-pounder who grew up attending Iowa games with his father, Terry. “Keep an eye on Marshal Yanda,” Terry would instruct Spencer.
Williams did. And when it came time to play high school football, he earned his way into the Cedar Falls starting lineup as a 230-pound sophomore. For three years, he plugged away on the Tigers’ offensive line — at guard and tackle. Everywhere but center.
“He’s always been a tough kid, always been kind of a grinder, a weight-room kid. He would always be running downfield, not standing around piles, just really working to the end of plays,” Cedar Falls coach Brad Remmert recalled of Williams. “He had that nasty offensive lineman edge that you want.”
Remmert used to love it in film sessions when he heard offensive line coach Ken Kolthoff bark out: “Play that back!”
“Usually, it was Spencer pancaking somebody,” Remmert said.
Williams sure looked like a prototypical offensive lineman, growing to 280 pounds by his senior year at Cedar Falls, his muscles obscuring his neck. The Hawkeyes, known for churning out blockers with the same qualities Williams possessed, were a natural fit.
But when Williams arrived last summer, he was quickly informed that he’d be shifting to center, a position he played only briefly as an eighth-grader. His height is more conducive to interior line play. Williams was just thrilled to be in the coaches’ plans, so he attacked his new position the way he would a defensive end.
“That’s just where they put me. I was ready to go,” Williams said. “Getting off the ball fast while snapping it was the biggest adjustment. I’m always working on that.”
Williams was a standout during Iowa’s preparations for the Outback Bowl last winter. He continued that progress in the spring. By summertime, Daniels, a junior star, was requesting to be roommates with Williams, a sure sign that the torch was being passed at a position that has produced the likes of Jay and Joel Hilgenberg, Casey Wiegmann and, more recently, Mike Devlin and Austin Blythe.
Williams is the second-stringer at center now, learning from Daniels and the rest of a veteran offensive line and still finding himself giddy at times to be among their company.
“Every once in a while, I’ll surprise myself,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of times where I’ll need to knock myself back into gear and be, like, ‘All right, let’s go. Come on.’”
Williams has allowed himself to think about how “insane” it will be to actually play at Kinnick Stadium, where he formed so many childhood memories. But he’s not ready to declare himself the heir apparent to Daniels.
“I haven’t done anything yet,” he said. “I’m just working as hard as I can. That’s the goal, but it’s up to the coaches. I’m not there yet.”