Grand Valley’s Gunslinger

<p>Bart Williams prepares to throw the ball on Saturday September 9, 2017.  GVL / Emily Frye</p>

Bart Williams prepares to throw the ball on Saturday September 9, 2017.  GVL / Emily Frye

Kellen Voss

Every good football team needs a good quarterback: a confident leader who is calm under pressure and can make big plays in crunch time. Luckily for the Grand Valley State football team, they have that leader in Bart Williams.

The senior has been at the helm for GVSU for a while, starting 39 games for the Lakers. In those games, he has completed 642 of 1,090 passes for 9,854 yards and 105 touchdowns, ranking him first amongst active returning Division II quarterbacks in those respective categories.

Those impressive statistics have translated into success for the Lakers, as Williams has led GVSU to a 32-7 record in his starts, including two trips to the NCAA Division II playoffs and a semifinal appearance in 2015.

Heading into his senior season, the sky is the limit for what Williams and the GVSU football team can accomplish. After a few weeks in training camp, Williams feels like the team is picking up right where they left off and is excited about how explosive this offense can be.

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress with our offense,” Williams said. “After coming back from the off-season, I feel like I’ve really gotten comfortable with our offense.”

Williams started playing football with his fifth and sixth grade team, where he started his football career as a running back. But after growing almost a foot taller in middle school, he made the shift to quarterback and never looked back.

After throwing for 3,121 yards and 36 touchdowns in his senior season at Grand Blanc High School, Williams made the Associated Press Divison 1-2 All-State First-Team and chose to come to GVSU to play college football.

“I think the coaching staff was a big thing, and the campus is beautiful,” Williams said. “I went to a big high school, so coming to a big college was important to me. I like the big atmosphere and the coaching staff a lot.”

Williams had a very eventful off-season, balancing a busy work schedule with trying to improve as a quarterback and bonding with his teammates.

“I trained in Chicago with a quarterback guy down there, where I learned a lot of fundamentals with my footwork and how to apply them to our offense here,” Williams said. “I’m finding a way to translate my training here at GV, as well as building relationships with my teammates. I was working full time (in May), but once summer kicked in, it was all football.”

Williams is entering his final year with the Lakers, and while he has been a starter since 2015, he feels more of a responsibility as a senior to be a leader for the young guys on the team.

“I’ve felt like a leaders for the past two or three years, and now that there’s not many upperclassmen that people gravitate towards, I think my role this year is very important,” Williams said. “Being a senior, whether you play a lot or not, you carry some sort of leadership role with the young guys. I have to do my job on the field, which is not only important to me, but also to my teammates.”

2018 may be the last year that Bart Williams gets to play football, and because of that, he’s making the most of every moment and wants to lead his team deep into the postseason.

“I’m trying to have the best senior year I can have and enjoy football while it lasts,” Williams said. “If I can do my job and do what I’m coached to do, I think we have a good chance to be really good.”

Williams is very optimistic about how good this football team can really be, and with his leadership and off-season improvement, he has no doubt that the team can improve from last season.

“Last year it wasn’t a talent issue, we just had a lot of bone-headed penalties and not capitalizing on opportunities.” Williams said. “I think our talent level is similar (to last year’s). The challenge will be to be opportunistic, controlling what we can control and not making stupid penalties.”

GVSU opens their season with a home game against Indianapolis on Thursday, Aug. 30. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3, and kickoff is set for 7 p.m.