After season-ending injury, IUP QB Lenny Williams Jr. hopes to return to stardom

first_img Published on September 8, 2017 at 5:48 pm Contact Kaci: klwasile@syr.edu On third-and-nine from the Mercyhurst 29-yard line, Lenny Williams Jr. lined up in shotgun. The Indiana University-Pennsylvania quarterback took the snap and moved backward as Mercyhurst linebacker Chris Peluso barreled toward him. As Peluso pulled Williams Jr. to the ground, Williams Jr.’s right foot stuck in the grass. He slid to the ground, his legs spread into a split, his right leg twisted and the ball fell out of his hands. He grabbed his knee.“It was painful,” Williams Jr. said. “I knew something happened, but I didn’t know what. I didn’t know it was that serious, I just knew I bent it too far. Then I couldn’t get up off the ground and I knew it was something serious.”Williams Jr. tore his ACL, ending a record-breaking season three games early.The Nov. 5 game last year marked the first time the two-time Harlow Hill award nominee suffered a severe injury. Since transferring in 2014 from Division-I Temple, where the coaching staff wanted to change his position, Williams Jr. had started all but his first game at IUP. He has recorded the highest-average yards from scrimmage per game by any Crimson Hawk, with 247.8  through his first two seasons, although the injury sidelined him the remainder of the 2016 season.The last two seasons, Williams Jr. was nominated for the Harlow Hill Award, the Heisman equivalent for Division II. After months of recovery, he has returned healthy at IUP (1-0) for his redshirt junior season.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“He’s a great athlete,” IUP head coach Paul Tortorella said. “He can hurt you running (the ball), he can hurt you from the pocket, he can hurt you throwing it outside the pocket.”Williams Jr. shines with his dual-threat ability. In two years, he ran for 1,825 yards and his 24 rushing touchdowns rank 10th among any IUP player. He began the 2017 season eighth in IUP history in total yards (5,204), with still two more years of eligibility. That earned Williams Jr. both the Pennsylvania State Athletics Conference and the Super Region One Freshman of the Year awards in 2015.It took four games for the dual-threat QB to break IUP’s quarterback single-game rushing record. Against Seton Hill Oct. 10, 2015, Williams Jr.’s 205 rushing yards earned him one of his first IUP records. The 205 was achieved in part because of a 60-yard touchdown. He scrambled then made eight of Seton Hill’s defenders miss.“The play took like 30 seconds,” Tortorella said. “It was like one of those things where you look at someone next to you and say, ‘Did that just really happen?’”Losing that weapon hurt the IUP offense. But finally, on July 20, Williams Jr. received a call from his doctor telling him he was cleared to play.“Knowing I’d be able to get back out there for camp, it was a good feeling,” Williams Jr. said. “Knowing I worked hard in rehab to get back in time and it happened, I was happy in myself for that.”Between July 20 and Aug. 31, Williams Jr. worked toward starting against Ashland in this season’s opener. In that game last week, with 1:45 left and the score tied at 23, he was given the opportunity to show he was back and healthy.Dump passes and short-burst runs moved the chains. Later, Williams Jr. sent about a 30-yard spiral to Swahneek Brown, but the ball slid threw his hands. Then he led IUP’s march down field with an eight-yard pass, 17-yard rush and four-yard pass that put IUP 29 yards from the end zone with 4 seconds on the clock.Kicker Dillon Sarka sent a 46-yard field goal through the uprights for the win, capping off the 10-play, 1-minute, 45-second drive initiated by Williams Jr. at QB.“To win this one,” Williams Jr. said, “that was a pretty good memory.”This season, Tortorella said he doesn’t expect Williams Jr. to put up the rushing numbers he had in the past. A number of talented receivers and running backs will provide him more chances to work out of the pocket and thrive as the dominant passer pre-injury.“I don’t set out every year to be nominated for a Harlow Hill,” Williams Jr. said. “I just want to win.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more