Broken Bones Won't Slow This Longhorn

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In a lot of ways, Tyler Williams is your typical high school senior.

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"I'm somewhat injury prone," says Payson senior Tyler Williams. During his football career, he's suffered an injury to his elbow, sprained both ankles, torn his rotator cuff and has broken a wrist, nose and fingers.

He dips french fries in his milk shake. Freshman boys follow him around and jump to his beck and call. He loves scoring touchdowns.

But in other ways, Williams is very different than most seniors.

Williams has played on the varsity football team since he was a freshman. Last year, he made the Grand Canyon All-Regional second team. He says he was born for football.

Indeed, at 5 feet 6 inches tall and 175 pounds, Williams is stocky and strong. He has been playing football since he was 10. He he's suffered reconstructive surgery on his elbow, sprained his ankles, torn his rotator cuff and broken his wrist, nose and fingers.

"I'm somewhat injury prone," he said, laughing.

Despite his friendly demeanor, Williams takes his football seriously. Longhorn football coach Jerry Rhoades said Williams knows the game in and out.

"He's very cerebral. He picks up on things," Rhoades said.

Williams spent the summer bulking up so he could hit the gym and turn it into muscle when the season started. He starts the day with a protein shake -- and maybe some toast with apricot jelly, and usually goes to Jack in the Box for lunch, where he'll order an Ultimate Cheeseburger with fries and a drink.

"But no soda during football season. It's a sin," he said.

Williams said to be a good football player, "you gotta have heart. And be somewhat athletic."

Then after a minute he said, "You almost gotta be dumb."

Williams is known for charging up the team on game nights, where the feeling is almost indescribable.

"The lights, the crowd...you practice for that Friday night," he said.

"Williams works extremely hard, but he's also our biggest cheerleader," Rhoades said.

This year will be especially significant for Williams, who said "it's awesome" being a senior.

"It's kind of like everything you've worked for is finally coming to a head," he said. "All those days you sweat it and the hours you put into it. In football, it's all about the seniors, and you kind of let them have their last deal. Now it's the feeling that they are working for you. It's for the seniors."

This year should be a good year for the team, Rhoades said. They will be gunning for schools like Coconino and Mingus that beat them last year.

"I expect a good season," Rhoades said. "We snuck up on a few teams last year, but this year it won't be that simple."

Still, Williams is looking forward to his senior year. He plans to run for homecoming king and said to expect some big surprises from the seniors during homecoming week.

As far as his future is concerned, he said he would like to play football at Northern Arizona University, where he already has a half-ride scholarship and plans to major in business.

Williams said he's ready to go out into the world, but that he also might want to return to Payson and coach football.

"I'm not sure what I want to do yet, I'm still young," he said with a grin.

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