HS Linebacker Interview


Please share this with your assistant coaches.

Mike Williams is a Senior Linebacker at Nazareth Academy High School near Chicago, IL. He is the defensive leader of his team. His life has been turned around this year due to the generous and dedicated heart of one of his assistant football coaches, Dr. Tom Nelson. At 5'11 and 210 Mike was getting looked at by 7 Division 1 schools.

Doc or Coach Nelson, he goes by both, is one of the original partners of the Prairie Medical Group, where he continues as the Managing Partner, and is the Medical Director of the Westchester Osteoporosis Center. He is also the Nazareth team doctor as well as the linebackers coach for the Sophomores.

Doc had told me about this tremendous young man and I asked if I could speak with him. Mike gave me a call a few nights ago and it was truly inspiring. As Mike aptly stated, "Mentoring makes a difference - it is worth your time."

I know it's easy to get caught up with the X's and O's and the mentoring quickly takes a back seat. Hopefully Mike will inspire you.

God bless, Lou

Mike, tell me about where you were at personally when you started with Doc?

Over the past year I had been really going through some tough times: poor grades, injuries, family issues. I basically lost all of last season due to injuries.

I sprained both ankles in one game, so I'm seeing foot specialitsts and doctors and receiving help but could not heal properly. I felt stuck. Then I got injured again, my hamstring, I'm losing my head cause I feel like I cant produce for my team. I was starting to get looks but then they dropped off ...

At the same time I didn't want to hurt my mother, she was going through a very painful separation with my father ...

Lots of people were trying to help me but I guess I just was not letting them in.

My head coach, Tim Racki, noticed something was wrong, so he had me talk to Coach Nelson. Being a coach and all, I knew I could open up with him. And he helped me in so many ways. He got me doing Pilates to get my body strengthened, He took me to Adoration and Church, met me where I was at. He mentored me.

How is Coach Nelson different from the other coaches on the team? How does he help you more?

He has had more time to be with me. He has a passion for mentoring that is greater than your average coach. When you are with him you can feel it, you know that he is interested in you, that he cares about you. You feel that the guy knows his stuff and you need to listen to him.

How have you changed personally during this football season being mentored by Coach Nelson?

Where he has helped me the most is to prioritize my life. So I have been focused especially on 2 areas: The spiritual aspect and then caring and giving. Ever since I did that everything else has been put in place and I can go through things with ease because of that. Once I started to pray and bring God into my life, I felt a peace, I felt like I could do this thing. I got my grades in order, I've been serving my Mom and I've never played better.

Was it hard opening up with Coach the first time?

No, it wasnt that bad opening up to coach. We were at his medical office. He asked me if I had a spiritual background ... I did, at a young age I really felt it and I knew it was for real and important, but I got away from it ... how to pray, adoration, masses ....

So he said that the perfect place to start was the spiritual aspect. He shared some of his life with me, his experiences, some of his mistakes that he regrets and just simply said that if I can get that in order first - the rest will come. I agreed.

So he taught me how to pray, he brought me to adoration, found a Church where I could go to Mass and got me the times and all ... I made a prayer schedule for myself. Now I gotta use my will to get it done.

Did your friends think this was weird or anything - all this prayer stuff?

No, not at all. Totally the opposite. My teammates knew that I was stuck, they knew where I was and that now I was different. They knew it was for real. I shared my story with the team one day after practice. One of our lineman was having a tough time - he asked me how did I get myself back on track - because I started to pray. The other coaches are starting to mentor now too.

What would you tell other coaches about SportsLeader?

That with everything we are going through: pressures at school, home, peer pressure, temptation ... and then adding on all the demands of football, the focus, etc. We need help to get through those pits. We as players need great male role models.

I want to let the coaches know that this might be weird but that his players need him right now to mentor him. They wont blow it off, we help each other. Start it - it helps a lot, young men need it - every young man needs it!

And if a coach says that he's made mistakes in his life and does not feel like he can be a role model?

We've all made mistakes, share those mistakes, it would be a disservice to his team to not teach us. Hearing about those things helps us to put things in perspective.
When a coach is humble it makes me open up a lot faster.

How is your relationship with your Dad?

Not very strong. It is something I have to work on. I was pretty tied up for a while, real mad. But Coach is helping me to forgive. Coach gave me 2 tickets to the next Bears game. He has to travel or something so he can't go. He told me I could invite whoever I wanted. I'm going to the game with my Dad. I hope that brings us closer.

Coach told me about the experience jogging .... do something important for football .... - what is that?

I was out jogging one day, no big deal. I had my head phones on, I'm listening to music and I pass this one guy on the way out and as I'm heading back I see him again and he motions to me to take the ear phones out. He asked me, "what are you training for?" I told him about Nazareth football.

And then he just says, "God is going to do great things in you through football. He is going to help you proclaim Jesus."

That was it and he walked off. But I guess he was right. My life has already changed because of football this year. Maybe more is still coming.

What are your goals for after graduation?

I'm trying to figure out where does God want me. I want to major in criminal justice and get a job with homeland security.