Donte Williams knew Nebraska would be cold. He was prepared for it. Throughout his collegiate and coaching career, he’s lived and worked in colder locations. He just wasn’t expecting the bitter cold so quickly.
“I kind of knew it would get colder here, especially since I went to college and the different cold places I’ve lived,” Williams said. “I’ve lived in the cold so it’s not that bad but I didn’t expect it to come this soon. I mean, I’m getting adjusted to it and [Mike] Riley loves to practice outside so it’s not that bad.”
Beyond adjusting to the weather, Williams has also been taking the time to learn everything he can about Nebraska’s defense from defensive coordinator Mark Banker and defensive backs coach Brian Stewart.
“It’s been good,” Williams said. “They’ve been breaking me in pretty slow. The main thing for me is learning the terminology for the defense. It’s not, I mean… Every defense does pretty much the same thing but the words change and when you take advantage of your opportunities on defense change so I’m just trying to get used to the system and the structure of everything.”
And Williams is taking his time. As Nebraska prepares for the Music City Bowl, Williams has let Stewart continue to handle the cornerbacks. While not permanent, doing so has allowed Williams to get a better understanding of his new team, while also giving the players a chance to get to know him.
“Right now it’s pretty much still Coach Stew’s role,” Williams said. “He’s still pretty much controlling that area and everything. I’m kind of just getting adjusted and getting to know the names of everybody on the team and the people on the team getting to know me. Right now I’m still a lot of watching and a lot of learning and like I say, this is like a trial run by error for me right now. It’s just a chance to just sit there and observe a lot of things and sit in meetings and learn what’s going on.”
Observing has been helpful, too. Over the last few weeks, Williams has been immediately impressed with what he’s seen.
“You can tell that these guys have been coached well and the biggest thing you can see is how quickly they pick things up,” Williams said. “Like a lot of things I may say or another coach may say is not the first time they’ve heard it. They’ve heard it before so it’s an easy transition as far as getting them to know what they need to do.”
The two players that have stood out most to Williams are cornerbacks Chris Jones and Joshua Kalu. Both were high on his list of who he is looking forward to working with most.
“It’s kind of the same thing I said awhile ago when I first got hired,” Williams said. “Their size, their speed, how quickly they learn, how smart they are as football players. I mean, that kind of stuff is hard to come by. Those two guys will play football on Sundays, so any time you get a chance to coach two guys who will play on Sundays, you as a coach are in heaven.”
Williams has noticed other players though. As he’s spent time watching and observing, he’s been particularly impressed with Nebraska’s scout team.
“It’s actually been a shock by quite a few things,” Williams said. “Our scout team, for one, is amazing. Things like that so as a defensive coach you’re going to get the look you need to prepare you for the team you’re about to play against so that’s actually been a shock to me. I mean, just the size and structure of our team. Everything is run so well here. I wouldn’t say that was a shock. It’s also a pleasant and good surprise so you know pretty much be here and you know you’re in a good environment.”
If you ask Williams who sticks out specifically on the scout team, he won’t name names. That’s because he’s been happy with everything he’s seen so far.
“When I say the scout team, I mean the whole team in general, so the O-line, the receivers, the quarterbacks,” Williams said. “It’s guys that actually want to be out here. It’s sometimes hard to find guys on scout team that actually want to practice and give you the look and what you need and these guys try and the [graduate assistants] do a good job with them.”
Williams hasn’t been a Nebraska coach for long, but he’s settling in. He’s learning names, figuring out the terminology and discovering everything he can about the Huskers’ history. Not that Ryan Gunderson – Nebraska’s Director of Player Personnel – would have allowed it any other way.
“Shoot, it’s hard to miss it,” Williams said. “There’s trophies and it’s pictures and everything everywhere. The moment I got hired, and I mean literally the moment, Gundy – pretty much our recruiting coordinator – gave me like a whole binder full of stuff to read up on. It was like right away I went back to college and reading stuff like I was in a class. I mean, like I said, everybody here has been great to me.”
And Williams has been great back. He’s spent the first few weeks of his coaching career at Nebraska learning and listening. It’s helped make the move as easy as possible for both him and the players.
The cold weather it still a bit of a shock though, but it doesn’t bother Williams all that much. Since he’s lived in it before, he knows he can handle it at Nebraska. That’s a good thing too because according to Williams, he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
“I didn’t know it got this cold,” Williams said. “That’s the key but pretty much every day I’m learning something new. I’ll never stop learning about things at Nebraska, especially since I plan on being here quite awhile. I plan on learning quite a few more things.”
Erin is the Deputy Editor and Digital Marketing Strategist for Hail Varsity. She has covered Nebraska athletics since 2012, which has included stops at Bleacher Report, Cox Media Group’s Land of 10, and even Hail Varsity (previously from 2012-2017). She has also been featured on the Big Ten Network, NET’s Big Red Wrap-Up, and a varsity of radio shows nationwide. When not covering the Huskers, Erin is probably at Chipotle.