2022 Portland High School graduate Teddy Williams will live out his childhood dream as he plays football with the Huskies of UConn.
Teddy Williams, a 2022 graduate of Portland High School, has committed to play football for The University of Connecticut starting next fall.
Only a year ago, joining the Huskies football program seemed like a long shot for Williams.
Despite being a finalist for the Walter Camp Connecticut Player of the Year in 2021, Williams said he didn’t receive many college offers to continue his career on the gridiron, calling the recruitment process “pretty slow.”
All that changed after Williams opted to do a postgraduate season at Salisbury School, a private college-preparatory boarding school, allowing him to experience a new lifestyle and showcase his football talents against the best of the best this fall.
“I thought my body could mature more and I can become more independent in a place before I go to college,” Williams said of his decision to go to Salisbury.
Just like he did in high school, Williams played both sides of the ball at Salisbury and made an immediate impact by catching a touchdown in his first game with the Crimson Knight.
Williams said the experience in Salisbury helped him as both a player and a person, adding, “It just helped me become more independent. Managing my time is where it helped me the most.”
While attending a summer camp, Williams began to talk with the coaches from UConn more frequently before the official offer came through to join a Huskies program that plays their homes games at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
Williams will be joining a team that won six games this fall and earned and appearance in the Myrtle Beach Bowl under the guidance of first-year under head coach Jim Mora, a former coach in the National Football League.
Williams said that playing at UConn is a “dream come true” and wants to be an inspiration to local athletes that may have been overlooked.
“A lot of kids think that since they play at a small school they can’t get recruited by bigger schools and can’t play DI, but I like having that feeling that I’m an example that you can do at it as long as you work at it,” added Williams
Williams’ ascent from a wide-eyed high school freshman to a Division I athlete has been rather remarkable.
Cromwell/Portland head coach Randell Bennett remembered seeing Williams for the first time in 2018 and admitted that he could have envisioned at the time that Williams would one day be playing for the state’s largest collegiate football program.
“He was really short and had a little baby fat on him, and I couldn’t see it,” recalled Bennett. “But he actually scored two varsity touchdowns that year.”
As a sophomore, Williams started to show flashes of the player that he would become, starring alongside All-State linebacker Owen Brunk as the Panthers battled through a 2-7 regular season with a young roster.
Then COVID-19 shut down high school football locally in 2020.
Williams made the most of the cancellation, becoming a beast in the weight room, working with Bennett, Brunk, and former University of Penn State football standout Jarvis Miller during the long layoff.
The time in the gym paid big dividends as Williams returned to the field to post a senior season that earned him the nickname “Teddy Ballgame.”
Williams served as the team’s main receiving threat, scoring 30 touchdowns and gaining nearly 2,000 all-purpose yards with 1,396 of those yards coming through the air.
He was equally dominant on defense, racking up 110 tackles, including 16 tackles for loss. He also forced and recovered six fumbles and intercepted four passes for a stacked defense that allowed less than eight points per game.
Following a 10-0 regular season, Williams took his game to another level in the playoffs, scoring nine touchdowns in three playoff games as the Panthers polished off a perfect season (13-0) with a state championship victory over Bloomfield on Dec. 11, 2021.
Bennett observed that Williams plays football like he was playing a video game, adding, “He’s always attacking, always going for a strip, always going for an interception, always going for a fumble.”
“His motor is just so ridiculous; it’s like he’s not real. He plays all over the field and never gets tired” added Bennett. “He pushes himself to the limit every time. Only the special guys have that type of drive.”
Williams said that having Bennett as his coach helped him improve both in his physique and his intelligence on the field, saying, “Coach Bennett really opened my eyes. He has a really good football IQ and he shares it with everyone. He is good at sharing his knowledge.”
After wrapping up his post-grad season at Salisbury, Williams came back to be on the local sidelines as Cromwell/Portland team that made the state semifinals this season. Bennett said that Williams was one of the team’s biggest supporters during the team’s playoff push.
Bennett and Williams have remained close since the state championship last fall, continuing to train together.
“It’s exciting to be still working together. To go on this journey together has been a really cool experience,” added Bennett, who played collegiately at Grambling State. “He’s done things the right way and now he’s reaping those benefits.”
Portland’s hometown football hero now begins to craft the next chapter of his football story.
Williams said he was originally recruited to play slot receiver at UConn, but added that he is “willing to do whatever the team needs”
“I like playing both offense and defense, so it doesn’t matter where I play,” stated Williams. “I just want to be able to play.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin