After living in Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, California and Washington - pressed hard, he’s convinced he can remember a few more states - Gino Williams has finally found a home in the backfield of the Cheney High School football team.
Williams, son of an airman at Fairchild, has seen more statelines than lines of scrimmage since he began school. Despite the impossibility of establishing roots on any prep football team, however, coaches of the 5-10, 180-pound senior speculate cautiously he may have a future at the college level.
In his first two games of the season, Williams averaged 122 yards and two touchdowns to anchor Cheney’s wins at Lake City and larger GSL-rival North Central.
“Once I see a hole,” he said, “I just hit it. I know the line is going to do their job. I’m not even worried about that.”
Williams moved to the Spokane area in 1995. His family originally lived within the Shadle Park district. Shortly afterward, they moved - again fleetingly - inside Rogers High boundaries. Williams played last fall for the Pirates, long enough to convince Coach Dave Pomante he had something special.
“As far as football is concerned, I think his best days are ahead of him,” said Pomante. “He’s still learning the game.”
Williams played wide receiver at Rogers, simply because he was new to the system and it was an easy role to learn quickly. But when his family moved to the Geiger Heights area in midwinter, just when Williams was beginning to feel comfortable at Rogers, the 17-year-old was forced to relocate again.
He may have expected something like a blind-side hit from a blitzing linebacker, Williams admits.
“Even before I came out here, people were telling me not to go to Cheney,” he said. “They said there was a lot of attitude here. But my dad, he said give it a try.”
In the first week of school, Williams said he had already met the entire basketball team. Classmates were friendly in the halls, and his quiet, good-natured personality quickly won over friends. He played on the JV basketball team and turned out for track in the spring, where he ran the 100, 200, and 400 meters.
Looking to capitalize on the speed they saw on the oval - he ran a hand-held 4.6-second 40 yard dash at Rogers - coaches converted Williams to halfback this fall. A 74-yard touchdown run against North Central was proof that head coach Tom Oswald made the right call.
Of course, speed on the football field is as relative as it is in real life. When Williams showed up a few minutes late for his first-hour weight-training class - a violation of Cheney athletic policy - he missed a crucial Frontier League game at Colville. Cheney lost 28-11.
“Any time you’ve got a guy in the lineup who can score every time he touches the football, it hurts to have him on the sidelines,” said Oswald, convinced the young talent will be a model of punctuality in the future.
Ditto, said Williams. With a letter from the University of Montana already in his pocket and the Eastern Washington program showing interest, he said he has recommitted himself to school and the team.
“I’m still hearing it from my teammates. I’m still hearing it from the parents. I let them down,” Williams said. “It’s my senior year. I can’t play around. I won’t make that mistake again.”