Nov 4, 2012
By Scott Gierman
CARBONDALE, IL - Turnovers are always on Tyler Williamson's mind.
"I'm constantly thinking about it," the Salukis' sophomore linebacker said. "I don't know how many times I've been on the sidelines and yelling, hey, get that ball out. Just every play I'm thinking about it."
In the last three years, Williamson has experienced another type of turnover in his career. Since graduating from high school, he has played football for three different schools over the last three years. However, it appears Carbondale will be the last stop of his college career as he settles in with the Saluki defense.
On the field, Williamson's uncanny ability to force turnovers has earned him recognition. Earlier this season, he captured MVFC Defensive Player of the Week honors following his performance in SIU's shutout win over then-No. 9 Illinois State.
Williamson has played a surprisingly large role in the Saluki defense's 22 forced turnovers year. That number is tied for sixth most in the nation out of 121 FCS schools.
Despite not starting a single game for SIU, Williamson leads the conference with three forced fumbles and leads the team with two fumble recoveries. He also has an interception. This past weekend, on a sack of North Dakota State quarterback Brock Jensen, Williamson forced a fumble that Brandon Williams recovered for a 55-yard touchdown. Later in the game, Williamson blocked a field goal attempt as well.
As a former high school quarterback who was actually recruited by SIU as a passer coming out of high school, Williamson understands how devastating turnovers can be to an offense.
"It's just an emphasis I put on turning the ball over," Williamson said. "I know how big turnovers are, having played on offense, and how big momentum changers those can be, so every series, every play, I'm thinking, just try to get the ball here."
While starting at quarterback and safety, Williamson helped lead Knoxville Catholic (Tenn.) High School to a state championship his junior season but realized his future looked brighter if he stuck with defense.
"I had a coach in high school basically tell me that I was better at defense," Williamson said. "I'd have a better future and a longer career on the defensive side of the ball."
After a frustrating redshirt season at Bowling Green in 2010, Williamson showed his potential last season at Highland (Kan.) Community College. He forced six fumbles and recorded one interception. That earned him a spot with SIU.
"It's a huge relief to be back in Division I," he said. "Honestly, I think we have a more talented team here than I did in Bowling Green."
With all the talent surrounding him, Williamson has learned from his more experienced teammates.
"The biggest thing that I'd never done was pass rush," Williamson said. "So I was outside with (defensive ends) Kenny (Boatright) and Eze (Obiora) so much in the offseason just trying to learn from them because those are two guys who have done it for a long time. Those two and Jayson (DiManche), I've learned from them."
With 2.5 sacks this season, it looks like he's learned quickly, but he says he still has a lot of room for improvement.
"I think I'm still young as far as an outside linebacker goes because growing up, I always played safety," Williamson said. "It's a big adjustment coming from the secondary into the box. I have so much still to learn, honestly, and I have a lot to work on, so I'll be busy in the offseason."