Jim Williams carrying the football against Philip High School in the 2005 SDHSAA Class 9A state championship game in the DakotaDome
When perusing the nine-player football section of the NFHS’ National High School Sports Record Book, it’s hard to not come across the name “Jim Williams.”
Despite the fact that his final season at Alexandria (South Dakota) Hanson High School was 10 years ago, the 6-0, 180-pound Williams still holds two national records, ranks second in two others, as well as third, fourth, sixth and seventh in other record categories.
Among those are Career Rushing Yards (6,010) and Career Rushing Touchdowns (88) – both national standards - while his Career Points Scored (732) and Single-season Points Scored in 2005 (276) both rank second.
Williams’ 34 Single-season Rushing Touchdowns in 2005 ranks third all-time; his 675 Career Rushing Attempts places fourth; his 242 Rushing Attempts in 2004 ranks sixth, and his 28 Rushing Touchdowns in 2004 stands seventh.
“It’s a huge honor to be listed that many times,” Williams said. “I credit most of my touchdowns and yards to the guys who blocked for me, because without them I wouldn't have achieved those records. My teammates and coaches helped me achieve them by believing in me and trusting me with the football every time I touched the ball. It didn't matter the down and distance.”
As a senior, Williams helped lead Hanson to its first-ever state football championship with a convincing 46-18 victory over Philip High School in the South Dakota High School Activities Association Class 9A finals. In that title game, Williams carried the ball 27 times for 210 yards for the 12-0 Beavers, while his brother Shea ran for 68 yards, and quarterback Jordan Gau passed for 134 yards.
The Hanson High School football (Jim Williams wearing No. 20) celebrating its 46-18 win over Philip High School for the 2005 SDHSAA Class 9A football state championship
“It meant a lot to my teammates and me to be the first team to bring a football state championship back to Hanson,” Williams said. “I would say it showed younger players that if you want something bad enough and put in the time to become a better football player that you can win championships.
“Among the memories that stick out from that championship game would have to be a fourth-down stop we got on Phillip. They had the ball right on the 50-yard line and needed a yard. We got off the ball and stuffed them - that kind of set our tempo for the game. Another one would be the last touchdown I ever scored - I had to dive for a ball in the end zone for the score.”
During his senior year, Williams rushed for 1,991 yards on just 170 carries for an impressive 11.7 yards-per-carry average, along with 34 touchdowns. A linebacker on defense, three-time all-stater Williams collected 96 tackles.
Under the direction of Coach Jim Haskamp, the 2005 Hanson squad outscored its opponents by an average score of 51 to 5.8, with every game except the season opener called due to the 45-point mercy rule. Five Hanson players went on to play college football, including Williams, who played at the University of South Dakota before transferring to Dakota Wesleyan (South Dakota) University.
“Jim was a very intense, passionate, hard-working football player,” Haskamp said. “He loved to compete in everything that he did and whatever sport he was involved in. That helped him become a better football player.
“I have never coached a more intense or passionate football player than Jim. His work ethic allowed him to get the most out of his physical gifts. Some of his physical skills include excellent speed and quickness. Jim also had great ability to read where a hole was when running the ball and where the ball was going when playing linebacker.
“As intense and passionate a football player as Jim was on the field and in practice, he was the same way when it came to his teammates. He cared for each person on the team and did whatever he could to help them be a better player. As a result, Jim was extremely loyal to his teammates, his school, his coaches and his friends. He developed a bond with all of them that lasts to this day.
“Jim led by example - he would never expect or ask anything of his teammates that he was not willing to do himself each and every day. In addition, he was a vocal leader on the team who did a great job of making sure everyone stayed positive and focused on the tasks and goals of the team.
“We were very good both offensively and defensively, but everyone took great pride in playing defense. If you asked any of them, they would probably tell you that they had more fun playing defense than offense. We had size and speed, and we had such outstanding team speed and quickness that we were able to shut down an opposing team’s running lanes. They played together and trusted each other to do their jobs. And they loved to hit!”
“If you saw our offensive line play, you would say that they are extremely fast at getting off the ball,” Williams recalled. “They weren’t necessarily the biggest players, but their speed was absolutely unmatched by the opponents’ defensive lines. If I remember correctly, they averaged right around 195 to 205 pounds.
“We would run the ball most of the time and teams knew that, so when we had to, we would air it out. I can recall a few games where we did that. In the region championship game during my senior year, quarterback Jordan Gau threw for 150 yards two touchdowns.
“Jordan was a dual-threat QB with a great arm who could throw the ball to anyone at any time. But, where he killed teams was with his legs. If nobody was open, he would turn a busted play into a huge gain and he had tremendous speed. He was 5-10 and 165 pounds.
“We ran a double-wing offense with a running back on each side and a fullback in the middle. Our other backs were 5-10, 175-pound Chet McManus, who played fullback, and my brother Shea, who was 6-1, 190.
“Shea was a junior that year, was a huge part of our offensive schemes, and led us in tackles as a linebacker. As far as playing alongside him on defense, it was a real pleasure, as not a lot of guys get that opportunity. Some teams keyed so heavily on me, they almost forgot about Shea. He would just tear teams up when they did that.”
Shown above (left to right) are Williams’ sister Amanda Williams Block; mother Dawn Williams; brother Shea Williams; Jim Williams; father Jim Williams Sr.; and sister Jessica Williams Mikkelsen
In addition to football, Williams was a proverbial “man for all seasons” who played four different sports in high school.
“I was a multi-sport athlete growing up as I also participated in baseball, basketball and track,” Williams said. “Baseball was in the summer. After football came basketball, where I started three years for Hanson and was an all-conference player every year. I wasn't the most talented kid on the floor; however, my defense made up for what I lacked in offense. Track was my second-favorite sport. I started running on the varsity team as an eighth-grader and participated in relays and the 300-meter hurdles. During my senior year, we were the 2006 Class B state track champions.”
Following high school, Williams played for Dakota Wesleyan University, where he enjoyed a successful career for the Tigers.
“My career at DWU was great,” Williams began. “I had some amazing coaches and great teammates. As far as honors and awards, I was voted one of three captains as a junior and as a senior, and I was also an all-conference player every year. I led the team in touchdowns during my junior year, but then switched sides and led our team in tackles as an outside linebacker my senior year.
“My wife Savanna and I live in Spearfish, South Dakota, where I am a mason who specializes in brick block and stone. Savanna and I are expecting our first child on November 28 - a little girl.”
John Gillis is the associate director of development of the NFHS. If you have any comments or articles ideas, please forward them to Gillis at firstname.lastname@example.org