If you heard the way Danny Williams’ former coaches talked about him in the crowded Library Media Center at Timber Creek Regional High School earlier this month, you would have gotten the feeling they always knew he was destined to reach heights most only dream of.
Williams — fresh off a Super Bowl victory as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs’ coaching staff — returned to his alma mater to provide current members of its football program with words of encouragement while also reminiscing with those former coaches.
Williams attended Timber Creek from 2010 to 2014 and wanted to play at quarterback early on in his Charger career. He would go on to fight for equal playing time with three other quarterbacks throughout his junior year, in what Timber Creek head coach Rob Hinson says was a competitive season for the position.
Williams would ultimately take the starting job his senior year, setting what was at the time the state record for most passing yards in a single season, with 3,545, as well as the then-school record for most completions in a single season, 220.
Hinson says the program changed dramatically thanks to Williams’ presence and determination years ago.
“He was destined to be a coach,” Hinson recalled. “We would do 7 on 7 in the summers and when the offensive coordinator couldn’t make it for family obligations, he would run the offense. Past that, he was all about pure mental perseverance. During the season, he would basically break down other teams’ defense before the week even started and be right on the same page as our offensive coordinator when he had the game plan ready.”
Despite Williams playing at such a high level his senior year, Hinson often remembers a humorous interaction between himself and the player before Williams’ freshman year.
Looking forward to being on the high school team, Williams met with Hinson and interviewed him on various aspects of his program, such as how he ran his offense and how the team created its game plans. Of the roughly 5-foot-7 and 130-pound eighth grader, Hinson said he remembers thinking there was no chance Williams would start at quarterback while at Timber Creek.
“He interviewed me about the whole offense,” Hinson said. “I remember looking at him — at this kid with a high-pitched voice that hadn’t really played much football at all before this point — asking me all these questions, thinking to myself that this is amusing, there’s no chance this kid ever plays for me.
“I answered all his questions and it was as if I was being interviewed by the school district for the head coach position again; it was that in depth,” Hinson added.
Years later, during that tough junior year where four quarterbacks were competing for the starting job, Hinson says there was a revolving door of candidates throughout the season, and even during games. Early on, Williams was sent down to JV for a week.
Coach Eric Williams — then the quarterbacks coach for Timber Creek and also coach of the JV team —, said he took the opportunity to give his players some words of encouragement leading up to the game.
“He was pretty discouraged about going down to JV, but the way our program works is that if you’re not going to play varsity, we want to see you play in JV,” said the coach. “So I told him to take this as a steppingstone to make yourself better, take this opportunity to learn a little more and make yourself better.
“So he went out there that game and threw six touchdowns; and I never saw him play JV for me ever again,” Eric Williams said with a laugh.
Moments like those throughout his high school career helped prepare Danny Williams for his next phase of life at Stevenson University, where he went on to play quarterback between injuries.
He would tear his ACL in 2015 and his meniscus during his senior year, ending his seasons and setting him up for lengthy recoveries. Although he would have liked to play, Williams’ desire to break down opposing team defenses and find ways to work a strong offense prevailed, leading him to more of a coaching role at Stevenson in his later years.
“While I was hurt both times, my coaches encouraged me to stay around the team and help out as much as possible at practice and with the younger guys,” Williams noted. “But after I got hurt that second time, by that time I already kind of knew that I wanted to get into coaching, so they actually let me work with the quarterbacks and go from there.”
Despite his injuries, Williams was able to push through knowing he had support from his family and teammates and that he could still have a significant positive impact on the team by coaching.
While at Stevenson, Williams learned a lot about how to communicate with players about what he and the other coaches wanted to accomplish, whether in a game or in practice.
“It definitely provides you with a different eye for the game in understanding how to make it clear for your players to understand what you see,” Williams explained. “You don’t want them to know everything that you know, but you want them to understand what they need to.
“So that was the biggest thing — taking that information that you have and making it useful for them.”
After graduating from Stevenson, Williams found his way to NFL head coach Andy Reid, becoming a quarterbacks coaching intern with the Kansas City Chiefs and helping the team to a Super Bowl championship earlier this month. Looking back, Williams says the experience was, clearly, one he’ll never forget.
“The lessons I learned from working with coach Reid, some of our other offensive coaches, Pat Mahomes … those guys taught me a ton and no matter what happens in the future, I’ll take those lessons wherever I go,” he said.
Although his current stint with the Chiefs is just about over — his position with the franchise is expected to be for only one year — Williams says he hopes to continue impacting people through coaching.
“I just want to continue to coach and continue to help people,” he said. “As much as it is football, it’s also about helping people grow as individuals and help them become great at whatever they want, whether it be football, school, nursing … just become better at life.”
As he interacted with current members of the Timber Creek football team, Williams noted that the school administration and coaches provide a crucial start for players to succeed both athletically and academically.
“You’ve got a great foundation with the faculty that really cares about the students here,” he added. “Obviously, the coaches with the various athletics teams are really great at helping grow good young men and women, so a school like Timber Creek is exceptional at building that foundation for a young person.”