DaMarco Williams has packed a lot of experiences, moves, interests and responsibilities into his young life.
The Temple Wildcats’ 6-foot-4, 190-pound senior safety and team captain lived in Columbus, Ga., until he was 11, then moved to Temple along with his father, David, and stepmother, Candice.
Williams played running back at Lamar Middle School, converted to defensive end for his first two high school seasons, moved to safety last year and made a fill-in start at cornerback for Temple’s playoff game before shifting to the Wildcats’ “boom” safety/outside linebacker spot for his senior season.
He’s a sharp, dedicated student who hasn’t made a C since his freshman year and wants to study chemical engineering or physical therapy at Tulsa, where he’s accepted a football scholarship. Temple head coach Scott Stewart called him “uber-intelligent.”
With his father often away from home for two weeks at a time while working in the oil business in Odessa, Williams knows he must serve as a role model for his three younger sisters and make sure they’re keeping up with schoolwork and chores. Even with all that on his plate, Williams — who participated in youth boxing — finds time for other interests.
“I like to meditate. I like to draw. I like helping people around the neighborhood, too,” said Williams, who scored a touchdown in Temple’s victory last week and aims to help the Wildcats (1-1) win their District 12-6A opener against Harker Heights (0-2) at 7:30 tonight at Killeen’s Leo Buckley Stadium.
“My stepmom said, ‘One day, if you make it big, I just want you to give back to people who are less fortunate.’ When I was younger, I was not the most fortunate guy. I grew up (in Georgia) in a bad environment. I just had to overcome that.”
Although Williams didn’t earn a full-time starting role until this season, Stewart knows exactly why his teammates chose him to be a captain.
“He’s always going to be here and work hard. Our kids respect that,” Stewart said. “He’s not about glitz and glamour. I’ll tell you, he’s a tough joker.”
To illustrate that toughness, Stewart recalled a spring workout during Williams’ sophomore year when he played safety during 7-on-7, no-helmets drills.
“We were looking at his footwork, and he drives on the ball. Jared Wiley, anytime he threw the ball it was 97 mph, and it hit DaMarco right in the face, square in the nose,” Stewart said. “He just (shakes his head), a tear runs down his eyes and he lines back up. Right then I was like, ‘I ain’t messing with that kid.’ He grew up boxing.”
Two months earlier, Williams dislocated his right shoulder on a kickoff return during Temple’s regional final loss to Manvel. Team trainers popped his shoulder back into place but wouldn’t let him play again, even though he wanted to.
Williams entered high school at 6-1 and 170 pounds, and Temple’s coaches envisioned him growing into a strong, athletic defensive end. He played that spot as a freshman and made the varsity team as a sophomore backup, seeing mostly special teams duty.
But the Wildcats’ defense approached the 2018 season with a slew of big, physical linemen, so Williams moved to free safety. He wasn’t a starter last year but accrued a large amount of playing time as a valuable member of the secondary.
“We’ve always used that rush end as our athletic-type guy. Most of (DaMarco’s position changes) have been because of teammates around him,” Stewart said. “He’d still be a phenomenal hybrid outside linebacker/end type, which is kind of what we’re using him for now as a stand-up guy.
“He gives us some edge rush and presence because of his length. In our stack package, he plays high safety. He can do a lot of stuff. He’ll probably go play cornerback at Tulsa. His skill set probably lends itself to living on that island.”
After then-junior cornerback Roman Jackson suffered a knee injury in last year’s 12-6A finale at Copperas Cove, Williams made his first varsity start at that position when Temple hosted Mesquite Horn in a Class 6A Division II bi-district playoff game. The Wildcats allowed 613 yards in a 45-38 loss, yet Williams handled the challenge admirably.
“He’s very comfortable having really good athletes up on him,” Stewart said. “Against Horn, I think his guy caught one ball for 3 yards. That’s all Tulsa needed to see.”
Williams chose Tulsa because he likes its campus and academic programs, and former Temple and Golden Hurricane quarterback Chad President told him Tulsa’s family atmosphere is similar to Temple.
Last year’s playoff defeat still bothers Williams, who admits that he sometimes misses playing offense but knows defense is his main thing.
“Everybody likes scoring touchdowns, so of course,” he said. “But I like defense. It’s fun. I like to take my aggression out.”
He already scored a touchdown this season, his first defensive TD since seventh grade. In last week’s game against a team from Mexico, Temple freshman linebacker Taurean York forced a fumble on the second half’s first play from scrimmage. The ball scooted along the ground until Williams grabbed it while tumbling into the end zone for a touchdown, and the Wildcats pulled away for a 51-29 victory.
“It was just instinct,” Williams said. “We needed some momentum.”
Williams said his father couldn’t attend the game but saw the touchdown on a video posted to Twitter. They speak to or FaceTime each other every day.
“I’m basically the man of my house,” said Williams, whose sisters are in the ninth, seventh and third grades. “My dad’s gone for two weeks and home for a week, so I’ve got a lot of responsibility along with football and getting schoolwork done. I help my stepmom out. I set the standards pretty high (for my sisters).”
Williams has embraced Temple’s environment that he described as “a brotherhood” and the leadership of Stewart and assistant coaches Josh Sadler and Dexter Knox after his difficult early upbringing.
“It’s kind of bad in Georgia, especially where I was from. I just found out one of my old teammates killed somebody,” Williams said. “I had a choice to live with my real mom or move with my dad. I chose to move with my dad so he could stay on me.
“When I was younger, he was hard on me as a young parent. He was like, ‘I never had this, so I’m going to make sure you know everything before I die,’ or something like that. He never really sugar-coated anything.”
Combining all of his experiences, Williams is focused on what he wants to achieve before leaving Temple.
“I want to go to state. I still have that (2016 state runner-up) medal in my room,” he said. “I just want to be a good leader and give it my all, no matter what.”