Coaching on and off the field leads to college degree for Seminole football standout

Nathaniel WilliamsNathaniel Williams was an athletic standout at Seminole High School in Florida, leading his football team to victory in the Seminole Conference with the most tackles and earning Most Defensive Player status. In wrestling he was a two-time state qualifier.

But it's in tackling problems in everyday life and in the classroom that his success really shines. On Sunday, May 19, at Fairfield University in Connecticut, Nathaniel was awarded a bachelor of science degree in information systems with a minor in mathematics, having overcome obstacles that would have slowed a less determined person. Along the way, he says, several people helped him to stay on track with his dream.

His grandmother, Rose Lee Williams, who was on hand to see him graduate, has always shared a special bond with Nathaniel. So when he needed a stable environment in the fourth grade, he went to live with her. From the beginning, he says, she encouraged him to read and taught him that homework had to come first. In no time at all his grades improved.

In high school, football and wrestling coach caughell stressed the importance of maintaining good grades. When Nate, as his friends know him, lost a wrestling match, coach Caughell used the moment to teach him that anger can destroy your focus. That lesson helped him to win a second match after losing in the first and taught him a valuable life lesson. "He'd always tell us, 'life if always going to give you a lot of obstacles; it's how you handle these obstacles that determines the man you will be," Nate recalls.

Rose Lee WilliamsIn the classroom, Seminole High teacher Miss Ackerson, played a key role in raising Nate's academic goals. He studied AP calculus with her and she recommended he take a geometry honors course over the summer, giving him a boost for his future studies in mathematics at Fairfield. His work in honors classes in chemistry and physics prepared him, he says, for the challenges of college.

Recruited to play football at Fairfield University, ranked one of the top academic universities in the north by U.S. News & World Report, he underwent knee surgery sophomore year that ended his college football career.

He found the same strong academic support at Fairfield that he had experienced at Seminole. Dr. Ed O'Neill, associate professor of mathematics and computer science, was "always there," and "always willing to help." He recalls going to work with Dr. O'Neill as late as 10 o'clock at night. "Because of that I was able to excel in math," Nate comments.

Dr. Winston Tellis, assistant professor of information systems and operations management, brought a humanitarian aspect to his classes, telling students about his own experiences in Haiti and Nicaragua and the micro finance program he was involved in. "He brought everything back to full circle," Nate says.

One more hurdle took place this year when Nate needed to have glaucoma surgery in November on his left eye. In December, after an all-night session to finish a history paper, he was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery for cataracts on the same eye. Fortunately, he has recovered fully and is now looking forward to the challenge of beginning his career.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647,

Posted on May 19, 2002

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