By JACK CLARK
MT. VERNON —
After a stellar high school athletic career, which included high level accomplishments on the basketball court, the football gridiron and the golfing links, King City resident and 1968 graduate Tommy Williams is being inducted into the Mt. Vernon Township High School Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2013.
“I’m not honored, I’m humbled. It means a great deal to me. It’s very humbling to be included in that group of people,” Williams said. “It means a lot for me to be a part of it. I’d like to thank the committee for putting me in with that group of people.”
Williams was a three-year (1966-68) starter at point guard for the Rams basketball team, spending two of those seasons as a co-captain. In 1968, the Rams advanced to the Sweet 16 with Williams running the offense. He was also a two-year (1967-68) starter at quarterback for the Ram football team; co-captain as a senior.
Williams was chosen as the All South Seven quarterback in 1967 and had an almost unbelievable record (16-3-1) as a starter, in his career.
“I was fortunate to have played on three basketball teams that were winners,” Williams said. “And two teams that were winners in football. We probably won 80 percent of everything that we did, but what I remember most are the games that we lost. I’m very competitive, which I think that you know. I don’t remember the great times as much as I remember if we had just done this, this and this, maybe things would have been different for us.”
But, for Williams it wasn’t completely about basketball and football. In 1967 he was also the regional and sectional individual golf champion, hitting the links for the Rams golf team.
“I had forgotten about that,” Williams said. “I guess that someone looked that up, but I truly don’t remember that. Maybe I should have just played golf all of those years instead of football and basketball, who knows what would have happened?”
To the delight of Rams fans, Williams played all three sports in high school. He credits the fans for giving him motivation.
“Anytime that you can walk on the field in Mt. Vernon, whether it’s Changnon Gymnasium or Vernois Field, and have all of those fans cheering for you, it’s something that you’ll never forget,” Williams said. “That was special. Those were great places to play.”
Almost 20 years ago, Williams bought Green Hills Golf Course, channeling his competitive nature into playing golf.
“I bought the course in 1994. I decided that I wanted to be a golfer then. I don’t know if that was an asset or a liability,” Williams said. “I’ve just always been so competitive in my life, maybe over competitive, if there’s such a thing. I just decided that golf worked good for me. I think that I won 12 or 13 Southern Illinois Golf Association (SIGA) senior player of the year championships. I played in some really good tournaments and just missed getting into the U.S. Open senior championships.”
Through it all, Williams acknowledges the talented athletes that surrounded him as the Rams went into battle, athletes that made him a better player.
“I’ve been lucky, in that I’ve been around a lot of great athletes,” Williams said. “I got to play with Nate (Hawthorne), I got to play with (Danny) Hester. Both of those guys went on to play in the NBA. I got to play with Marvin Kendrick, Bruce Rutherford, and a number of other great athletes in football. I had a lot of great talent around me. I wasn’t the greatest basketball player or football player or golfer around, but at the same time, I accomplished in three sports what a lot of people do (in only one). During that four years, we dominated just about everything that we did,” Williams said. “We were very competitive, we had a lot of talent. Especially our football team, we were just so dedicated to working together as a unit. It was a (wonderful) time to have been a part of all of that great Mt. Vernon tradition. Mt. Vernon’s tradition is as good as maybe any high school in the country. I don’t know of anywhere that has any more, in my opinion.”
Williams fondly remembers the feeling he would get when he would hear the vocal support of raucous Rams fans before a game.
“When you would run out on the court, or you would come out in your football gear with your helmet on, people would just go wacko. And it was great to have just been a part of that. That’s what Mt. Vernon is all about, the fans. This hall of fame is fantastic. They’ve done a wonderful job with it,” Williams said. “But the fans are what makes the whole deal. Mt. Vernon has a heritage of fans that is second to none in my book. I can’t believe that there would be a better way to grow up than to play sports at Mt. Vernon Township High School, can you?”