There are moments when Dontez Williams wishes he could strap on the pads one more time.
Football runs in his blood. His older brother, Delrece, once held the WPIAL record for rushing yards in a regular season. Dontez had his own moment in the spotlight for Steel Valley in the fall of 2011, when he unexpectedly emerged as one of the top running backs in the WPIAL and ran for 1,573 yards and 24 touchdowns as a senior.
Family required the bulk of his attention after he graduated from Steel Valley in 2012, but the itch to be around the game wouldn’t go away. Buckling the chinstrap again wasn't in the cards, but he found a new way to get involved. Williams began volunteering as a youth football coach, working with 7- and 8-year-old players. The last few years, he’s been an assistant coach with the West Mifflin Middle School team.
Now, he’s coming back to his alma mater.
Williams was hired earlier this spring to be the head coach of the Steel Valley Middle School football team. It is the first time that Steel Valley has had a middle school program in decades. Seventh and eighth graders will be eligible to begin playing this fall.
“It’s a big deal, I think. They can’t wait,” Williams said. “I’ve had a few parents reach out to the school and get in touch with me. I think they’re excited to have their kids come out and play. I’m glad they can trust me as their kids’ coach.”
Parents and students aren’t the only ones excited. Their coach is excited, too, as he has an opportunity to give back to a school and community that has meant so much to him.
“One day, if I become rich or whatever, I’m going to give back to the community,” Williams said. “Even though I’m doing it now and volunteering down at the little league, it means a lot to be able to come back to my alma mater and be able to give back to these kids.”
Youth football programs in the area don’t offer a competition level for middle school students. That's meant Steel Valley freshmen have typically been away from organized football for several years before joining the high school team.
“That break in between little league and high school is a big gap,” Williams said. “It’s a good thing for the school to have the middle school team back, because they won’t have that long of a break. Hopefully it’ll keep them out of trouble and keep their grades up.”
The season will last seven or eight games, which will help expose the students to a variety of competition, teach them how to balance their academics with practices, educate them about eligibility rules and help expand their knowledge of the game.
“It’s not too long of a season, but it’s enough to get them prepared for high school,” Williams said. “I can’t wait to be part of that journey.”
Parents can contact the middle school if they are interested in having their child sign up for the team. Williams would like to start summer conditioning sessions in mid-July in advance of the season. He and his assistant coaches, Dewayne Murray and Matt Schuster, are eager to get started.
“Hopefully our football IQ will come together and get these kids ready,” Williams said. “I’m looking forward to a good season, a learning season, and I can’t wait.”