There are certain indelible moments for athletes. The roar of the crowd, the smell of freshly cut grass and the feeling of putting on a fresh uniform before a game are all experiences athletes crave. When the final seconds of the season fall, those feelings are usually put in a box and put away until next season, but not for SFA student-athlete Cody Williams. After putting away his Lumberjack football uniform for the last time this November, he will pick up a glove and cap and head to the baseball diamond in search of those indelible moments all over again.
Williams is a dual-sport athlete, something that is a rarity in Division I sports. Listed as a wide receiver in the fall and an outfielder in the spring, Williams represents SFA in two high- profile sports in football and baseball. In July, Williams was one of 169 college football athletes to be nominated for the 2018 Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team. Since its creation in 1992, the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team has been one of the most esteemed awards given to select student-athletes who show dedication to community service and a desire to impact the lives around them.
Many athletes remember the moment they fell in love with their respective sport. For Williams, he credits his love for football to one of the greatest championships in recent sports history, the 2005 BCS National Championship between the University of Texas and the University of Southern California. As for baseball, that love dates back to playing on the fields of Pearland with friends at the early age of 4. Williams also credits his father for instilling in him a love, passion and knowledge for sports by pushing him to be the greatest player he could be.
Williams, an SFA junior, accumulated 15 catches for 162 yards with three starts in the 2017 SFA football season. In his debut season with SFA baseball later that same academic year, Williams gained nine starts while seeing playing time on 31 occasions. Williams earned a .235 batting average while also gaining a .395 on-base percentage.
During his time at SFA, Williams’ impact has spread throughout the locker rooms and in the coaching offices. He not only provides an athletic spark on the field but also has a character that resembles the model student- athlete.
“Because he is a two-sport athlete already, he has more credibility amongst our guys, just because they understand the difficulty of being a two- sport athlete, so there’s a lot of respect for him in our locker room already,” said Johnny Cardenas, SFA head baseball coach.
“But then he goes and takes that a step further by being the consummate team guy and being willing and able to do whatever it takes to help us win a ballgame. That’s something that is hard to do by just being a one- sport athlete, much less being an athlete over two sports. You add to that the academic success that he has, and he’s the total package when it comes to how you want a student-athlete to look, act and behave.”
Along with adding eye-catching stats to the stat sheet on the field and making people smile in the community off the field, Williams also thrives in the classroom. He was named to the Southland Conference All-Academic team with a 3.69 GPA in biology/pre- med. Williams shadows a doctor when he is at home in Pearland, and he hopes to attend medical school after his tenure at SFA.
“Cody [Williams] is the model student-athlete. [He] competes in two sports, and is a great student,” said Jeff Byrd, interim SFA head football coach. “Young men with great character and great athletic ability are what every coach is looking for, and we found one in Cody Williams.”
During the annual SFA Champions Dinner in May, Williams was awarded the 2018 Cally Belcher Award. The award is given to the athlete who best resembles Belcher’s determination, desire to succeed and love for the game. Cally Belcher was a two- time Southland Conference honorable mention defensive back for SFA. During a spring practice in 1994, Belcher was hit in the head and died of a brain aneurysm later that day. The recipient also gets the honor of wearing the No. 16 jersey, the same number that Belcher wore during his time at SFA.
Williams wore the No. 16 jersey during a 24-21 victory over Abilene Christian University on Sept. 22.
“I was very honored when I found out that I was receiving the Cally Belcher Award,” Williams said. “It just means that I’m a hard- working guy that is always team-first, always doing anything for the team and never really complains about much. I’m not the most vocal person on the field or on the team, but my leadership qualities are kind of the way I do things, and not always by what I say.”
Though Williams has made a presence on the field in his time at SFA, that’s only the beginning of his story. A lot of athletes make their impact on the field, sacrificing everything for the game they love. But for Williams, since arriving to the city among the pines and the SFA campus, he has used his time away from the field to pour his heart into helping others and serving the community.
“When I found out about [the Good Works Team nomination], I was extremely honored because, I mean, even though you do things in the community, you never really expect anything back in return. You just kind of do them out of the kindness of your heart,” Williams said. “It felt really good to get recognition for things that you do outside in the community. Even though everything might not be on the field or in the classroom, people in the community see that you’re being active and helping out.”
Williams participated in multiple programs en route to being nominated for the Good Works Team. They include “Keep of the Game,” “Read to Succeed” and volunteering as a coach in various youth football camps. “Keep of the Game” is a program where Williams, accompanied by his fellow baseball teammates, played a three-inning game with children with special needs, helping them get around the field and have a good time.
“Read to Succeed” is a weekly program in which members of the SFA football team go to the SFA Charter School to read to and interact with the children.
Williams credits his parents for instilling in him the value of giving back to the community, as well as a program he participated in called “Jack and Jill” that emphasized community service.
“The community is where you are. Everything around you kind of resembles you, so you always want to do nice things in your community and to do nice things for other people in the community,” Williams said.
“What you do off the field has not only a bigger impact, but a longer impact on people and their lives than what you could possibly do on the field.”