In this age of specialization in high school sports, it is becoming rarer to find even a two-sport standout, let alone a student-athlete who excels at an All-State level in three different sports. However, Mt. Vernon’s Shane Williams is that rarity.
After completing an all-everything senior season on the gridiron, Williams is now in the midst of helping lead the Mt’neers back to the Class 3 Final Four on the hardwood after Mt. Vernon’s third-place finish a year ago. This spring, Shane will look to once again return to the state championships in three different field events, with an eye toward earning some individual state titles in the long jump, triple jump, and high jump.
Basically, Shane Williams is a coach’s dream. He always works hard, never complains, gives it his all, and leads by example. It certainly helps that he was blessed with athletic ability, but Shane has never taken his talents for granted. Instead, he has developed his talents through endless hours of sweat and practice. Oh, and Shane did say that he “kisses his cleats” before football games to make him run fast, so there’s that, too.
“I feel that I’m a versatile athlete, and in every sport I do, I give 100 percent,” said Shane. “I believe I was blessed with natural athletic ability.” Go ahead and add humility to the list of adjectives, because Shane Williams is not the type of kid who will tell you how good he is, but rather possesses a quiet confidence. Maybe it’s better if Shane’s coaches describe him as an athlete.
“Shane Williams would rival any athlete I have ever coached,” said longtime high school football coach Ozzie Riley, who just completed his first year at the helm at Mt. Vernon. “He has all the tools a high school athlete needs to be successful: speed, jumping ability, toughness, and an unwillingness to lose when competing.”
“He’s all in,” said longtime head basketball coach Skip Brock of Williams. “He is totally committed to the success of the team. He’s a leader on and off the court. He treats everyone in the program the right way. Anytime your best player is your hardest worker, the team has a chance to be special. Shane is very competitive and plays the game the right way. He understands the importance of preparation.”
Shane’s coaches are as equally impressed, if not more, with Shane’s character off the field and court as they are with his athletic prowess on it. “What you see on the court is the same type of person that he is off the court,” said Brock. “Everyone that knows Shane respects him. He is humble, yet confident in his own abilities. Again, Shane is all about the team. He has empathy for others. You do not see that much anymore.”
This fall, Shane rushed for 1,302 yards on 193 carries and scored 12 touchdowns, and also caught 16 passes for 322 yards and another touchdown. Defensively, Shane registered 84 total tackles, picked off a pair of passes, forced a fumble, and blocked two field goal attempts. Shane was just named 1st-Team All-State as a defensive back by the Missouri Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association (MSSA). He also garnered 2nd-Team All-State recognition by the Missouri Football Coaches Association, as well as 1st-Team All-Big 8 Conference recognition as both a running back and defensive back.
For his career, Shane rushed for 2,468 yards on 415 carries (a gaudy 5.9 yards per carry), while also adding another 1,027 yards on 54 receptions—an impressive 19 yards per reception. Williams scored 34 touchdowns in his career. Defensively, Shane made 194 tackles, picked off seven passes and recovered four fumbles.
“I can’t imagine what Mt. Vernon football would be like without Shane Williams,” said Riley. “His contribution to this team this year was nothing less than miraculous. Everything offensively or defensively starts with how best to use him in the schemes. All of our opponents game plan to stop him on offense, and he has been our savior on defense.”
Shane has posted some equally impressive numbers on the basketball court, and has been a key cog on teams that have captured three-straight District titles and been to a pair of Final Fours. Despite limited preseason practice due to football, Shane began this season by averaging nearly 15 points per game. Entering this season, Williams had scored 947 points, grabbed 294 rebounds, and recorded 98 steals, all while shooting over 50 percent from the field. Shane’s postseason accolades are too numerous to mention, but include 1st-Team All-State recognition by both the MSSA and Missouri Basketball Coaches Association (MBCA) last season.
“He has been solid for all four years of his playing career at Mt. Vernon,” said Brock. “He appreciates and respects our tradition, and I think he wants to leave the right kind of legacy when he is finished. He feels a great responsibility for his leadership position, and I think the highest compliment you could give is that he is a ‘winner.’”
Shane is also one of the top returning track athletes in the state—regardless of class. Last spring, he qualified for the Class 3 state meet in three separate events: long jump, triple jump, and high jump. Competing over two scorching hot days in Jefferson City, Williams brought home podium finishes in all three events.
Although Shane has been successful in each sport he has competed in at Mt. Vernon, the root of his success actually begins at home. Shane is the middle child of Doug and Linda Williams’ three children. His older sister, Kenzie, helped guide the Lady Mt’neers to a Class 3 state championship in 2010, and is now starring on the hardwood nearby for the Missouri State Lady Bears. Shane also has a younger brother, Trace, who is a freshman at Mt. Vernon.
“I believe Shane’s success comes from the home front,” said Riley. “Shane has the benefit of being raised in a two-parent home where mom and dad are very successful people. Shane’s parents got him involved in sports at an early age. They complemented and nurtured his success and redirected his failure so he could improve as he got older. I believe this is the blueprint behind any successful athlete.”
Shane would agree that he owes his success to his family. “My family is everything,” he said. “When I was young, my parents were my coaches for everything. Without them, I would not be the athlete I am today.”
It did not take Shane’s parents long to realize that they were raising a pretty talented athlete. “From a very young age, we knew,” said Doug of Shane’s burgeoning athletic ability as a youngster. “His mother was a great athlete and we spent many hours playing sports together as a family at home.”
“In about third grade, I noticed Shane becoming very intense and competitive in games around the house and sporting events,” said Linda. “I could also see him growing physically and developing his coordination. Shane could pick up about anything and do it well.
“Beside the fact that he is a naturally gifted athlete, Shane works very hard on things,” added Linda. “When he was little and was working on learning something new, he always practiced and practiced whatever it was until he would perfect it. His patience can be short sometimes, and this made him all the more determined. He always learned things quickly.”
There are two grades between Kenzie and Shane, and three grades between Shane and Trace. However, the three of them are best friends and are virtually inseparable when the family gathers together. “Me, my sister, and Shane have all been best friends growing up and we love when we get a chance to hang out,” said Trace. “He’s one of the most athletic and funniest people you’ll ever be around.”
“My brothers and I have always been close, playing around the house together,” said Kenzie. “We have grown even closer as we have gotten older. Shane is my best friend and we love spending time together. He is just super fun to be around and always looking to make people laugh…especially me! Shane is a natural athlete and has a certain drive—that a lot of kids don’t have—to be the best. I’m one of Shane’s biggest fans and can’t wait to watch what he does this next year, and going into his college career.”
Most Mt. Vernon fans (and probably opponents and opponents’ fans) have seen the intense, competitive side of Shane, but may not be aware that he is quite the jokester. “Shane is fairly quiet at first until you get to know him better,” said Linda. “Then you will find that he is really funny and fun to be around. That’s the part of Shane we see at home. He brings a lot of energy and fun to the family dynamics. He is a good-natured young man, happy, and loves being with his family and friends. Shane also has a serious side when it comes to sports and matters of importance. For Shane, then it’s business.”
Leadership is one trait that all of Shane’s coaches mention when discussing his attributes. “Shane has always led by example as one of the veteran players,” said Brock. “It is great to tell the younger players ‘do what he does and you’ll be successful.’ But in the last year, we have seen him blossom into a more complete leader by leading vocally, as well. When Shane says something, his teammates listen. He has established credibility with the players and staff. When describing Shane as a leader, I’d say it would be servant-leadership. That is what our basketball culture strives to encourage.”
“Shane is very competitive when it comes to sports,” said Doug. “Shane is self-driven to be the best he can be at anything he does. He will give everything he has for his coach or his teammates, and he will take on any role he is asked to do. Shane is a good role model for younger kids. He has always taken time before games, after games, and any other time kids have come up to him.”
Describing Shane as a servant-leader is not surprising when you consider that Shane lists his priorities as “God, family, sports,” in that order. “I do my best to put school in front of my sports, but that’s not always easy,” said Shane.
As with most multi-sport standouts, ultimately there comes a time when one must choose one sport over the other (or others). Shane Williams has made that choice, and plans to play football collegiately at a college to be named later. Shane is still weighing his options, but has made unofficial visits to Missouri State, Missouri Southern State, and Northwest Missouri State. “Shane is a very tenacious athlete,” said Linda. “He will pour his heart and soul into whatever sport he is in at the time. But his passion is football…it always has been. Shane’s goal is to play somewhere that the college has a great football program, a good education, and someplace that has a need for him as a player.”
Any coach who would not want a player of Shane Williams’ caliber and character probably should just kiss their cleats to help them run fast out of town.
Originally published in the November 2012 issue of Ozark Preps Illustrated.