Former PSU football and NFL wide receiver Derrick Williams, who helped fuel the Nittany Lions' return to national prominence from 2005 through 2008, will take on a surprising role in Penn State hockey this season - strength and conditioning coach for the ACHA Division 3 team at the Altoona campus.
The unlikely match came about when head coach Tom Lantz crossed paths with Williams at a local event where the gridder was working with kids, and the two hit it off. As a result of the fateful meeting, Williams will work with the team in the weight room on Tuesdays and help with conditioning on Wednesdays.
"I feel the players will be able to relate to Derrick, because he has been involved with both collegiate and professional athletics and knows what it takes to be successful," Lantz said.Williams needs little introduction to fans of Penn State football. As a top-ranked recruit out of Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, MD with offers from powers like Florida, Oklahoma and Texas, his simply committing to PSU in December 2004 signaled a coming renaissance for a storied program that had fallen on hard times. The Nittany Lions had just one winning season in five from 2000-2004, but in Williams' freshman year, the team stormed to a storybook 11-1 season, a Big Ten title and an Orange Bowl win over Florida State. Despite his season-ending injury midway through the campaign, Williams still contributed moments like a game-winning 36-yard touchdown catch at Northwestern to Penn State lore. As a senior, he was integral to the 11-2 Big Ten champs that appeared in the Rose Bowl. Williams finished his collegiate career with 161 catches for 1,743 yards, while adding 117 carries for 594 yards. In all, he found the end zone 22 times, including five times via punt or kick returns.
After his electric college career, the all-purpose ace was selected in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. However, he was released after a pair of seasons in the Motor City, and when brief stints with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the CFL's Toronto Argonauts fizzled, he decided to leave professional football. Williams relocated to Hollidaysburg, PA - just seven miles from Altoona - in search of a new career, possibly as an analyst for PSU football.
Additionally, on Monday evening, PSUA announced its schedule for the 2013-2014 campaign, as the team attempts to rebound from its disappointing 7-11-1 (3-9-0 College Hockey East) mark last year. Fans will be able to examine Williams' handiwork at eight home games, beginning with a September 28th contest against Indiana (PA) at Galactic Ice Arena in Altoona.