The I-5 Corridor Mailbag: On Bennett Williams, 'The Play,' Cristobal's worst losses and is Anthony Brown Jr. putting too much pressure on himself?
Bennett Williams' father, Garey, wanted the ball during Cal's famous kick return against Stanford in 1982. He's glad he didn't get it.
(The Williams Family, Courtesy of Garey Williams)
The bye week is over. A Friday kickoff approaches.
Let’s jump right into the mailbag.
Are you still going to run the Bennett Williams profile you said you were writing? Shane W.
Unfortunately, no. I’ve had a lot of rewrites for game stories on deadline, but this is one of the first times I had a feature story ready to drop that got completely wiped out.
Damn injuries. But, in appreciation of the three-interception season Williams had going before breaking his leg, here are three things I learned while reporting on the Oregon defensive back.
1. Williams fits in quickly. His dad, Garey, remembers when Bennett was young and they were on a family trip together at Disney World.
“He’s just going up to strangers and asking them if they wanted to come over to our house for dinner,” Garey said. “He’s just running around, going up to people and talking. That’s very different from my other son, who would just close his eyes if he didn’t want to talk to you.”
After a freshman All-American season at Illinois, he spent two years at College of San Mateo and joined Oregon prior to the 2020 season. He still keeps in touch with teammates and coaches from his previous two stops, and just days before his season-ending injury, he was telling Garey how close the current Oregon secondary was becoming.
“They joke around all the time,” Garey said, “but they’re really, really supportive of each other.”
2. Garey understands that feeling. He’s a substitute teacher at St. Francis High in Mountain View, Calif. — the school where Bennett and his younger brother, Fresno State DB Evan Williams, attended — but still has text threats with teammates from his days as a defensive back at Cal during the 1980s. Garey was on the field for “The Play” back in 1982, when his Bears used five laterals off a kickoff to come back and beat Stanford as time expired — all while the band rushed onto the field.
Inside the Williams Household, a few pictures from Garey’s playing days line the walls.
“He’d see replays on TV, or the pictures on the wall. He just loved football,” Garey said of Bennett. “He’d be two years old in our living room telling me to tackle him.”
3. Garey wanted the ball during “The Play,” and looking back, he’s kind of glad he never got it.
The ball was on the other side of the field for much of Cal’s return, but when it turned back toward his side, he — No. 32 — positioned himself to take a lateral from Mariet Ford. Garey considered himself one of the best athletes on the team, and the Bears practiced this sort of thing on Sunday mornings. He was ready. He wanted the ball.
But Ford’s lateral ended up in Kevin Moen’s hands, who took the ball into the end zone while crashing into a Stanford trombone player.
“When I saw that band on the field, I just stopped,” Garey said. “I was thinking that this is stupid, this isn’t going to be legal, that we’re just going to have to do this bad boy over again. But Kevin goes in to score and history is made.
“If that ball came to me, I may have just stopped.”
Because you didn't watch the game live due to a "wedding" how much responsibility sits on your shoulders for the Oregon loss? Kevin P.
I gave that wedding 110 percent and have the wine stains on my favorite shirt to prove it.
So, roughly 40 percent of the loss is on me.