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Chris Elsberry: Trevardo Williams closing out solid UConn career

Updated 11:54 pm, Tuesday, November 27, 2012
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STORRS -- His mother, Monica, drove the family car to the end of the Wilbur Cross Parkway, headed up Interstate-91, made the trek down part of I-84 and then proceeded down Route 195 to the campus nestled in the Northeast hills. As Trevardo Williams watched the University of Connecticut come into view, an admitted wave of excitement washed over him.

It wasn't that he was leaving Bridgeport behind, it was that he was beginning a new chapter in his life.

"It was a new page in my life," said Williams, who spent a year at Canterbury, a prep school, before going to Storrs. "I was ready to compete. Get in the weight room, get bigger. It was mainly about getting bigger. Overall, I was excited to be a part of it."

Those years with Central had been fun, but this was so much more. Big East Conference. Division I-A. Williams wanted to be right in the middle of it. So he worked. Busted his tail in the weight room. Starting building muscle. Kept refining his speed. And in his very first game against Ohio, Williams recorded a sack.

"I knew right then that he would be something special," redshirt senior defensive end Ryan Wirth said.

Something special, indeed.

Heading into Saturday's regular season finale against Cincinnati at Rentschler Field, Williams stands alone as the Huskies' all-time leader in sacks with 30½, breaking the mark of 27 set back between 1982-85 by Mark Michaels. He's got 11½ this season, including three in last week's 23-20 triple overtime win at Louisville. He's also recorded 43 tackles this season, 13½ tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Career-wise, Williams has 134 tackles, 40½ tackles for loss and five forced fumbles.

Not bad for a guy that barely weighed 200 pounds and was more known for running track.

"What I remember was, he was real quiet," said senior linebacker Jory Johnson. "He was real fast and we joked about how he was a track star in high school. We'd say, `Man, you're not that fast,' and we'd kid him. We were just busting him about that. He's become so good. He's mastered what it takes to be a pass rusher."

Interestingly, then-coach Randy Edsall went to the 2008 state track meet in New Britain to see Williams, who finished fifth (10.85) in the 100-meters and seventh (22.18) in the 200-meters. Seeing that speed, it didn't take long for the coach to offer Williams a scholarship.

He was the only coach who did.

At UConn,Williams buried himself in the weight room, looking to add muscle to his 205-pound frame. He got his chance early, earning a special teams spot and a place on the defensive line on third-down passing situations. Now, four seasons later, Williams is on the verge of possibly another chapter in his life -- the National Football League.

His head coach, Paul Pasqualoni sure thinks Williams can play on Sundays. Earlier this season, Pasqualoni said that watching Williams play reminded him of Dwight Freeney, who played for Pasqualoni at Syracuse from 1998 to 2001 and has spent the last 10 years in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts.

"His `get off' reminds me of Dwight Freeney," Pasqualoni said. "Dwight was a little bit thicker, a little bit heavier than Trevardo, but his `burst' off the ball reminds me a lot of a guy like Dwight, a guy like DeMarcus Ware (of the Dallas Cowboys). Those guys all had that `boom' (Pasqualoni snaps his fingers) off the ball."

"He's become so good," Johnson. "The speed, the strength. He's gotten bigger and stronger since he's been here and he's just so good. He had some sacks early in his career but these last two years, he's just exploded. He's so good with his hands, not letting linemen get on him, sometimes he beats them with pure speed, other times with strength."

At the beginning of the season, with the sack record in sight, Williams told a reporter that his goal as a senior was to get 16 sacks. While he's not quite there, what he's accomplished this season -- and over his career -- helping lead the Huskies to within a victory of bowl eligibility for the fifth time in six seasons -- has been nothing short of remarkable.

"I'm extremely happy," Williams said, when asked about his career. "I'm sure that when I said that (16 sacks) it was just a slip of the tongue, but if I didn't make that statement, I would have found some other source of motivation. I know this might be my last game and I have to put my best foot forward. This is my last chance to make more tackles, get more sacks and make it to a bowl game."

And what would a potential third bowl game mean?

"It would mean a lot going to another bowl game with my seniors," said Williams, who's played in the PapaJohn's.com Bowl (beating South Carolina in 2009) and in the BCS Fiesta Bowl (losing to Oklahoma on Jan. 1, 2011). "My freshman and sophomore years, we played hard for those seniors, so going to another bowl game would put an explanation point on the season."

And on a great career.

celsberry@ctpost.com http://Twitter@elsctpost