Updated Mon, Sep 9, 2013 7:51 pm
Just over 6,000 people call the city of Jackson, Ohio home; a tight-knit community with a long-lasting love affair with the Jackson Ironmen football program.
Five times a year, a significant portion of the city’s population flocks to Alumni Stadium to cheer on the Southeastern Ohio Athletic League powerhouse. Win or lose, the men in red bring a community together to witness young athletes putting every ounce of energy into each play.
For the third season in a row, the Jackson community has witnessed the growth and talent of one of Jackson’s leaders: junior linebacker and tight end Reagan Williams.
A coach’s son, Williams first strapped on a helmet and shoulder pads in the second grade.
Reagan’s father Randy, a former offensive lineman at Capital University, coached his son at the pee-wee level. It was then, according to Reagan, that his love for football began to form.
“He is my biggest role model,” Williams said, “He is the biggest person I have to thank for where I am today.”
Both of Williams’ parents faced a tough decision when their son finished sixth grade.
With a May birthday, Williams’ parents had to decide whether to enroll Reagan in Kindergarten on time, making him one of the younger students in the grade, or to hold him back a year, making him one of the grade’s older students.
The Williams’ initially decided to enroll Reagan on time, and his youth did not cause any issues; Williams excelled in the classroom. After his sixth year, Williams’ family decided that it would be best for him to repeat sixth grade so that he could have a physical advantage over students in his grade.
The move paid off. Williams earned a starting role on the varsity squad as a freshman.
Not only was Williams a starter, he was an impact player on both sides of the ball. Williams occupied the interior linebacker spot on defense while taking snaps at both fullback and tight end.
During the 2012 campaign, Williams racked up 94 tackles and three sacks, leading the team in tackles as a sophomore.
This season, coach Andy Hall plans put Williams’ hand on the ground and let him take a few snaps on the defensive line.
“We want to put him in situations where teams can’t double team him and run away from him,” Hall said.
Teams have reason to be intimidated by Williams; the junior stands at 6-foot-3, 232 pounds and always attacks the ball.
No matter where the big man plays, Williams embraces the challenge of playing both ways.
“If we run a bad play, it lets me pick them up and gives me more chances to be a leader,” Williams said.
Leadership is one of the many qualities that Hall saw in Williams since the junior’s pee-wee days. He saw tremendous potential in Williams’ abilities.
“He is always the first one in the weight room and the last one to leave,” Hall said. “He does whatever it takes (to improve).”
Williams’ role as a leader became official this season when he was voted a team captain, despite not being a senior.
The captain admitted that becoming a leader has been a learning curve and insisted that “it’s all about energy.”
“As a captain, you can’t have a bad day … good energy reflects upon the team,” Williams said.
The team has adopted the acronym PNA, positive, no attitude, when preparing for games. Williams also added that work ethic is an essential part of being a leader.
“He’s a good athlete, but his work ethic is like nothing else we’ve ever had,” Hall said, “He watches just as much film as the coaches do.”
Williams’ work ethic has caught the attention of more than faithful Ironmen fans; NCAA Division I programs have taken notice.
247Sports.com ranks Williams as the 10th overall Ohio prospect in the class of 2015; the website also listed him as the eighth ranked interior linebacker in the nation.
ESPN.com has Williams ranked as the 14th overall Ohio player in his class.
To this point, Williams has received offers from Ohio and Kent State, but he has attended a Penn State football camp and visited Louisville during its Sept. 1 game against Ohio.
According to 247Sports, Williams also has plans to visit Nebraska in November.
For Williams, becoming a Division I football player has been a dream since he was little. He remains humble about the interest he has drawn.
“It still hasn’t hit me yet, and I hope that it doesn’t hit me until it actually happens,” Williams said.
“(Williams’) football IQ is high and it will make him playable at the next level,” Hall said.
Williams still has time before he must commit to a school, but he said that he is looking for programs that instill a hard-nosed, hardworking mentality with a “get everything right” attitude.
Before Williams throws on a college uniform, he has plenty of work left to do in an Ironman jersey. It will take the combined efforts of a young Jackson squad to catch up to 2012 SEOAL champ Gallia Academy.
Williams was quick to give praise to his longtime teammates, describing his fellow Ironmen as his brothers.
“I couldn’t love these guys any more,” Williams said.
The lessons that Williams and his teammates have learned have not only aided them on the field, but off of the gridiron as well.
“You have to hold yourself to a higher standard because the whole community looks up to you,” Williams said.
More wins is the only path to the top of the conference; Williams is solely focused on helping the Jackson program reach its full potential in 2013. He knows that with hard work, success will follow.
“I’m just trying to be the best I can be.”