Culver City graduate Williams steps into the major spotlight on Saturday
November 25, 2021
When Culver City High School graduate, Donte Williams was named the interim head coach at USC in September he was transformed from a well-known assistant coach to head coach of one of most prestigious colleges in America. The pressure to win football games and championships is tremendous at USC. Winning football games at USC is expected and winning championships is anticipated.
On Saturday at the legendary Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at 1 p.m. against UCLA Williams will step into a coach's pressure cooker. If Trojans beat the Bruins Williams will go down in history as one of the youngest coaches to beat the Bruins in football. Williams is 39 years old.
This game is for all of the glory and bragging rights for one year and in Williams case, a life time. After 14 years as an assistant coach Williams will lead his team in the biggest game of his life as a head coach.
This is a strange position for someone who loved football but never thought about going into coaching. "I never wanted to be a coach until the opportunity presented itself" said Williams. "A Culver City alumni knew the head coach at Los Angeles Harbor Community College and the next thing you know he got me an interview and it kind of went from there. I got the opportunity. Once I realized I liked helping other people more than I liked helping myself, it kind of took off from there."
In the beginning there was youth football and Culver City High School. "Culver City was a place where I had a chance to grow and have fun," said Williams. "They never took away the fun aspect. I played with some good players like Sean Butts and Curtis Nettles but when coach (Tom) Salter came I learned more about the X's and O's." Salter said that he knew Williams had a special love for the game because he played his senior year with a cast on his hand.
"Football was the best thing for me," said Williams. "There is nothing like going out there and putting a helmet on. It's the ultimate team sport. It's 11 on 11. It's not like basketball where it's pretty much one on one or like baseball where you have to wait your turn. Playing football, you have to come together as a unit."
After graduating from Culver City Williams played defensive back at Pasadena Community college and two Division 1 colleges and after playing professionally in the Arena Football League Williams found his calling in coaching. "Everything is a life lesson," said Williams. "Sometimes you learn what to do and what not to do but part of coaching is to be able to take the best qualities from each situation. A lot of times people think you learn stuff from coaches but a lot of time you learn from players you coach."
Being the head coach at a school like USC can be very challenging. The Trojans are 4-5 so the pressure is really on Williams and his team to beat the Bruins and win one more game after Saturday to become Bowl eligible. Despite a losing record Williams is embracing every moment.
"Being the head coach at USC is an opportunity of a lifetime," said Williams. "You are in the moment and now you just have to get the job done. I truly believe that leaders are not made, they are born. So when you get the opportunity, you grab it by the reins."
Williams said the biggest difference from being an assistant coach and a head coach is that you are involved in every aspect of the team. "The way we practice, how we practice, how we travel, how we dress, how is the offense, how is the defense, how is the special teams, how we eat. How is the academics. That's a big thing especially being at a prestigious University like USC. It's bigger than football, you are getting these young men ready for life."