Lance Williams’ journey from football star to MLR Pioneer
HERRIMAN — If you’ve been a fan of the Utah Warriors, you certainly know Lance Wiliams.
And if you know Williams, chances are strong that he’s your favorite player.
For the past five seasons Williams has stood out with his endless enthusiasm, hard work and often exceptional play, all of which have contributed significantly to the team’s success. His play and demeanor have also helped bring out the fans to Zions Bank Stadium in what most consider Major League Rugby’s best fan environment.
This past Saturday Williams set a historic mark, earning his 50th cap along with teammate Mika Kruse, and is thankful for all of his experience while hoping he’s recognized for the right reasons.
“It’s all about work ethic and trying to put others first, and I hope fans can see that in my play,” Williams said. “That’s how I grew up, and it’s how my grandparents brought me up. It’s about putting others first, and that’s how I approach everything.”
— Utah Warriors Rugby (@utwarriorsrugby) April 26, 2022
Williams grew up in both Hawaii and Western Samoa, spending most of his time in Samoa playing rugby, and then necessarily switching to American football while in Hawaii. He excelled at both, and was quickly met with several scholarship offers to play football out of high school for programs such as San Diego State, Utah State and Wyoming, among others.
But for Williams, the offer he accepted came with good reason.
“I wanted to play in front of my grandpa especially because he’s been my number one supporter throughout, so staying in Hawaii and playing there was the right decision for me,” Williams said.
Williams’ grandfather, John Williams, has been a huge influence throughout his upbringing and is someone Lance credits for a lot of his success.
That success came immediately while playing for Hawaii under Norm Chow where he became a starting outside linebacker as a freshman and then started for four straight seasons. Following his collegiate career, he spent a brief stint in the Canadian Football League before turning back to rugby and eventually to the state of Utah where he was part of the Warriors’ inaugural season in 2018.
The transition went smooth, with Lance drawing on his vast experience playing both sports.
“I’m a quick learner, so switching back to rugby full time was something I was able to do relatively quickly, I think,” Lance said. “I was able to start out with rugby right after I gave professional football a try, and it’s been great. I’ve loved every minute of it and it’s all rugby for me now.”
His teammates are grateful it’s all rugby for Lance now, drawing on his boundless enthusiasm both on and off the field.
“He’s great at being as intense as anyone on the field and then letting it all go and being a guy who likes to be goofy and have a good time in the locker room and off the field,” said Warriors’ scrum half Danny Christensen. “He really does have the perfect balance, I feel, and it’s part of what has made him so successful. He brings a great energy that everyone responds to.”
As for his time in Utah, Lance has grown to love the community while maintaining a special place in his heart for both Hawaii and Western Samoa.
“Utah is a second home for me now, and there will always be a place in my heart for this state and its people,” Williams said. “I love the people here and the support they’ve given me on the field and off the field.”
Tough challenge in New England
Both Lance and Christensen have a tough task ahead of them this Saturday when traveling to take on the New England Free Jacks, who have compiled the best record in the MLR this season at 9-1.
“New England is the best team in the league and we’re really excited to get a crack at them,” Christensen said. “We feel we match up well with them and it’s going to be a big challenge for us, but one we’re excited for.”
Utah meanwhile has struggled to a 2-8 start to the season although both players and coaches remain optimistic they can match up well against anyone, and that includes the Free Jacks.
“We’ll just continue to strengthen our weaknesses against a great team like New England and hope for the best this week,” Lance said.
UTAH WARRIORS VS. NEW ENGLAND FREE JACKS
Date: Saturday, April 30
Time: 2:30 PM MDT
Where: Veterans Memorial Stadium in Quincy, Massachusetts
Broadcast: KJZZ, The Rugby Network, NBCSB
Radio: KOOL FM and ESPN 960
Brandon Gurney is the Utah Warriors Team Reporter. With nearly two decades of experience covering BYU Football in print and on radio, Gurney brings a wealth of experience to the Utah Warriors beat. You can read all of Gurney’s stories on the Utah Warriors throughout the 2022 Season at warriorsrugby.com
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