And our last honoree in this series is a bit out of the ordinary because he is still playing, but he is an obvious choice: Kyren Williams.
The #22 ranked running back nationally out of St. Louis. Kyren Williams led his high school to the 5A state championship and totaled 40 touchdowns his senior year. He chose Notre Dame over offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford and Wisconsin.
5-9 199 pounds, Williams was an early enrollee in January of 2019. He saw very limited action and red-shirted his first year.
And then 2020 happened.
Against the back drop of COVID, Williams ascended to the top of the depth chart and never relinquished that position. In game one against Duke he rushed for 112 yards, and caught 2 passes for another 93, and scored twice.
The big numbers rolled in.
185 yards against Florida State, 127 against Louisville. Multiple TD games and he developed a reputation for ferocious pass blocking.
And then #1 Clemson came to town. On the first play of the game from scrimmage, Williams set the tone for an exciting ND victory when he went on a 65-yard TD run that will long be remembered by Irish fans. He finished the day with 140 yards and 3 TDs as the Irish prevailed in overtime.
Two weeks later, in a key match-up against North Carolina, he came up big again with124 yards and 2 TDs.
Williams closed out the 2020 season with 1125 yards rushing, 313 yards receiving, 14 touchdown and was a vocal leader of the Irish on and off the field.
2021 has been more of the same. Elected team Captain, the season from a numbers standpoint started slowly mostly due to an unsettled offensive line. But as the line stabilized, Williams took off.
138 yards against USC and then 199 against North Carolina. The North Carolina game included a spectacular 91 yards TD run that had it all: a complete field reversal, a devastating stiff arm to free himself around the corner and a race to the end zone.
With one regular season game remaining he has run for 928 yards and caught passes for another 339. So far in 2021 he has scored 15 touchdowns. He has seemingly knocked his role as Captain out of the park. After his performance against North Carolina, Brian Kelly acknowledged that Williams’s leadership impacts not just the players on the offensive side, but the defense as well.
Earlier in the season FightingIrishPreview.com tried to explain his running style and came up with “patient” as his most dominant trait, and next was his ability to maximize every run, even when stuffed behind the line he seems to find a way to gain a yard or two.
It is likely that Kyren Williams will forgo his remaining seasons of eligibility and head to the NFL after the 2021 season, so it would be advisable to ND fans to enjoy and appreciate the greatness of Kyren Williams, another Fighting Irish Preview, All-Time Irish Hero.