AUBURN – Travis Williams has been where Auburn’s players are today – riding a winning streak, dreaming big dreams.
Today, Williams is a coach, a musician and a friend and mentor to Auburn football players young and old.
He remembers the reporters flocking to Auburn, the fans waiting for autographs, the students who just wanted to be close by. Now, as a graduate assistant at his alma mater, Williams, who was an All-SEC linebacker on Auburn’s unbeaten 2004 team, is trying to help another team of Auburn players get through it with psyches intact.
The Tigers have climbed to where even Williams never was. At 8-0 overall and 5-0 in the SEC, they are No. 1 in the Bowl Championship Series standings going into Saturday’s game at Ole Miss.
“It’s hard because you have to remember they are young kids,” Williams said. “Some of them are still teen-agers, none of them are older than 22. The Internet is so big now, and TV. It’s so hard. One thing we try to tell the kids is always remember all the hard work that got to you to this point. You work so hard, and it only takes one or two games to lose all that.
“When I talk to them, I try to be honest as possible with them. I tell them ‘A lot of folks still don’t respect you, still don’t believe this team is a pretty good team.’”
For Williams, staying focused on the task at hand as a player, wasn’t hard. He’d been proving people wrong. He for much of his life signed out of Columbia, S.C., after Auburn was his only scholarship offer.
“I was always told I was too small, too this or too that,” Williams said. “I only had one team offer me a scholarship. Every week I wanted to show every SEC school that I belonged. My motivation was a little different. I had a chip on my shoulder every game.”
In 2004, Auburn had few close games. For this Auburn team, close games have been a weekly happening. But Williams says he sees a strong similarity between the 2010 Tigers and the 2004 Tigers. Both teams, he says, had a closeness that is hard to find.
“With any good team, the chemistry is the key,” Williams said. “Winning is contagious. We’ve been battle-tested. We’ve fought through some tough games. A lot of times a good team has to go through some battles. One thing Coach Chizik always says is that we might not be the most talented, but we are a pretty good team as a whole.”
Quarterback Cam Newton leads the way. He’s become the nation’s most visible college player. Williams says he could see it coming last summer.
“On the weekends during, I would drive to go to Wal Mart or I’d be leaving town and I would see Cam jogging by himself,” Williams said. “He would jog from his apartment all the way to the complex to work out and after the workout would jog all the way home. There is a lot of stuff he has done behind the scenes to put himself in the position he’s in.”
For Williams, some hard decisions are coming. Will he coach? Will he pursue a music career? He says he doesn’t know what he’ll do once he receives his Master’s Degree in December.
When Williams was playing with the Atlanta Falcons, he and some teammates dabbled in rap music. He liked it so much that he kept it up. Today, he has a record label – Blitz Squad Entertainment. One of his songs, “Tiger Walk,” celebrates the history of Auburn football and has been a big hit with Auburn fans. He plans to release an album in 2011.
Williams says his music is all positive.
“I grew up in neighborhoods and all that, but there is so much positive you can bring from that,” Williams said. “In my music, I don’t talk about the bad. I talk about the good coming up and the struggle and how you can make it out.”
Williams says he has no intention of giving up music – “When the other coaches go play golf, I go to the studio.” But whether it will be his life’s work remains to be decided.
“I have a song on the radio,” Williams said. “We’re playing good ball. I really love coaching and I really love doing music. At the end of the season, I’ll sit down and say ‘What’s the right move?’ Either way, I’m blessed