Sometimes Andrew Williams forgets he’s in shoulder pads and acts as though his wardrobe consists of a loose-fitting robe fastened with a brown belt.

During such momentary lapses, Williams, a junior two-way lineman for James Monroe, finds himself tempted to trip an oncoming rusher or subject an opposing quarterback to a suplex.

“But then I remember this is football, not judo,” Williams said.

There’s no confusing Williams’ talent, however, both in the dojo and along the line of scrimmage. A first-team Battlefield District selection at defensive end, Williams enters Saturday’s Region 3B championship game at Goochland with a team-high nine sacks. When he’s not chasing quarterbacks, Williams keeps busy protecting his own as the Yellow Jackets’ standout left tackle.

His martial arts background lends itself to both positions. In judo, the goal is to throw an opponent onto his or her back. In order to do that, you must first get hands on them.

“So when the O-lineman tries to get his hands out, I grab his hands, push them down and then do a swim move to the side, like I would in judo,” Williams explained. “I can get my hands up faster than most D-linemen and hold on longer.”

College recruiters are starting to take notice of Williams’ handiwork on both sides of the ball. The University of Memphis in particular has expressed interest in the 6-foot-3, 215-pound junior.

“He’s got great hands, quick hands,” James Monroe coach Rich Serbay said. “His movement with the swat and the swim and rip, they say they’re as quick as anyone they’ve seen in high school.”

While Williams’ stated aim is playing football on Saturdays, his future is the dojo is equally bright. A year-round competitor on the U.S. judo circuit, Williams is nationally ranked and considered an Olympic hopeful for 2024 and beyond. Texas A&M is considering him for a partial martial arts scholarship.

Williams has become accustomed to grueling, back-to-back practices and tries his best to avoid scheduling judo tournaments during football season. But sometimes it’s unavoidable.

Last week, Williams missed the Yellow Jackets’ regional semifinal against Brentsville while participating in judo’s prestigious Dallas Invitational. He won the event, but grappled mightily with the decision.

“I really wanted to play Friday,” Williams said. “I had arguments with my parents about going, not going—trying to get plane tickets back early. But at the end of the day, I trusted my team that they could handle the win.”

And they did. Despite Williams’ conspicuous absence up front, the Yellow Jackets (9-3) rolled to a comfortable 34–7 victory with senior linebacker Jack Hardy recording a pair of interceptions.

“We gave him our blessing and did the best we could,” Serbay said. “We got through the game, but obviously we need him.”

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Joey LoMonaco: 540/368-5045

jlomonaco@freelancestar.com

@joeylomonaco

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