by Rick Eymer
For most high school seniors, the Charlie Wedemeyer All-Star football game, to be played in San Jose's Spartan Stadium next Wednesday, marks the end of their prep careers. For Gunn High grad Beau Williams, it's only the beginning.
Williams joins Gunn teammate Nathan Wood and Palo Alto grads Brandon Springer and Mike Fukuhara, and East Palo Alto resident Charles Tharp, who attended St. Francis High in Mountain View, on the Santa Clara County North squad for the 7:30 p.m. contest.
There's one difference. While his teammates will be moving on to junior colleges, colleges and jobs, Williams plans to attend Phillips Andover Academy (former President George Bush went there) near Boston for a year of post-grad work, both academically and athletically, in hopes of attracting a Division I scholarship--if not in football, then maybe in basketball, or track.
Williams, who played all three sports at Gunn, will do the same at Phillips.
"Sports have always been a part of my life," said Williams. "I like going out and putting on the pads. I feel naked if I'm not doing something like football or basketball. If I'm not doing something active, then I don't feel like I'm applying myself toward my potential."
At Phillips Andover, he'll be given the opportunity to achieve that potential. The coaches at the school are aware of his abilities, and plan on making use of them. It would help Williams put a subpar season behind him.
Williams had a tough senior season at Gunn. In football, the team was geared up to earn its first winning season in three decades, but injuries (including a season-ending torn cartilage to Williams in the season's fourth game) conspired to halt the advance.
"It was a rough season," said Williams. "We had a lot of talent and a lot of potential, but we were plagued by injuries. We lost one game by two points and another in the final 20 seconds.
"I set our goals much higher than just a winning season," said Williams. "I wanted to play in the CCS playoffs. I guess it wasn't meant to be."
Williams sat out his senior season of basketball to help insure his injury healed properly. It helped during track season as Williams ran on Gunn's 1,600-meter relay team that placed seventh in the state meet. Williams also finished second in the SCVAL De Anza Division finals in the 800 meters and third in the high jump.
In Wednesday's football game, Williams will be playing the "monster" position on defense, a kind of hybrid between safety and linebacker. He'll also get a chance at receiver and special teams.
"Most scouts say I'm more of a tight end or outside linebacker, but I'd like to try wide receiver," said Williams. "I think I can do it, though people say I look slower than I actually am.
He has football in his genes. Williams' father, Bob, was a tight end at Stanford University in the mid-70s.
Williams did achieve one of his high school goals by being picked to play in the All-Star game.
"I saw my first all-star game when I was a sophomore, and it looked like fun," said Williams. "I set a goal that day to play in the game. I'm honored to be here because I didn't think I had a chance when I got injured."
Everything has worked out just fine for Williams, it seems.
"When we came out to practice, we all clicked right away," Williams said. "There aren't a lot of showboats. We all get along. Instead of going against each other, we're playing with each other. I remember some of these guys from my freshman year.
"This is just another team," added Williams. "Everybody here knows how to be a team player. We have a bunch of leaders out here. It makes it fun to play."
Tharp is one of the premier running backs playing in the contest. He helped lead St. Francis to the CCS title despite an 0-6 start. The Lancers won seven straight games after that start to capture the crown, beating two teams, Bellarmine and Oak Grove, which had beaten the Lancers earlier in the season.
Tharp will be attending the University of Hawaii in the fall.
"This is a good opportunity to play with some of the best players in the section," said Tharp. "It's also my last chance to play in high school, and a chance to go out with a bang."
Beau Williams would have to agree.
The North squad is being coached by Homestead High's Jeff Lamson and his staff. That position originally was filled by former Gunn High coach Mike Johnson and his father. However, Johnson reportedly was threatened with a lawsuit by one South Bay father who was upset that his son was not selected to the North all-star team. Johnson figured the headache of dealing with such parents wasn't worth the effort and bowed out as head coach.
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