Success Is a Choice

Senior linebacker Patrick Williams finds that flexibility and perseverance go hand in hand in sports and life

Patrick Williams on football field

Being open-minded has turned out to be the key to success for Tufts linebacker Patrick Williams, A16, making him a stronger football player and giving him a leg up in his future business career.

A wide receiver at Porter-Gaud School in Charleston, South Carolina, Williams was recruited by Division I schools. He competed at the same high school level that produced the NFL’s number-one draft pick in 2014, Jadeveon Clowney. But unlike most similarly talented players in the state, Williams envisioned a future that did not include a career in the NFL.

He chose Division III Tufts as the place to pursue his academic and professional dreams. It wasn’t always easy. His freshman season, he was asked to move from wide receiver to defensive end. Inexperienced and undersized, he calls the switch one of the biggest challenges he has faced.

But he adapted and led the 2012 Jumbos with three sacks. Williams continues to produce, now as a linebacker, a position he moved to in his junior year. In a recent game at Williams College, he led the Jumbos with 11 tackles and an interception.

His flexibility paid off in other ways. He brought up the gridiron position changes during an interview for a summer internship at BlackRock, the financial services giant, and says it helped him land a job as a capital markets intern in the firm’s San Francisco office. He will return to BlackRock after he graduates to begin a two-year rotational program with the firm.

Proving Himself

Williams, a political science major, has learned to trust his instincts. “Just being myself has continued to create successes throughout my life,” he says with an easy confidence. His family is a strong influence. The genial style comes from his father, Patrick; his dedication comes from his mother, Andrea. Not following through on anything simply wasn’t an option when she was involved.

He wanted to attend a strong academic college outside of South Carolina, and knew that staying at his public high school would lower the odds. So he transferred to the small prep school Porter-Gaud, even though school officials wondered if he could succeed academically.

He quickly showed he was worthy of admission. Driving two hours round trip every day to attend the school for two years, he became senior class president and received the Governor’s Citizenship Award presented by the faculty. “I had to prove myself in a lot of different aspects,” Williams says. “I needed to prove people wrong, and prove to myself that I could do the work.”

Getting Involved in the World

Williams has worked hard to make the most of his opportunities at Tufts. As a freshman member of the Compass Fellowship, he worked with a classmate to develop a business plan and curriculum that would teach at-risk youth how to own and operate a food truck. He also founded the Tufts Business Opportunity Council to connect alumni with undergraduates. For five semesters he had a show on WMFO campus radio. He worked for the Alumni Relations office helping to strengthen its ROTC database and was a teaching assistant in the history department.

Williams is also a leader in the Tufts Institute of Global Leadership’s (IGL) support of the Rubin Carter/John Artis Innocence International program, which advocates for prisoners on death row believed to be wrongly incarcerated.

“Patrick strikes me as a great young man,” says Sherman Teichman, director of IGL. “He’s quite intelligent, very personable and passionately dedicated to many things.”

Last spring Williams chose to study abroad in Hong Kong, and took maximum advantage of the experience. In addition to taking four classes, he volunteered with an event management company and traveled to Thailand, South Korea and Taiwan.

“I met so many people from so many places around world,” he says. “I saw Hong Kong as a really cool and different opportunity to spend six months in a place that I knew nothing about.”

Being at Tufts has further fueled Williams’ desire to achieve his full potential. “Coming to Tufts allowed me to gain an outlook that I don’t think I would have gained at another school,” he says. “Being in Boston, where there are a lot of good schools, a lot of good students, it forces you to make sure you’re one of those smart students. It’s a push to want to do better and be successful in life.”

Tufts Football plays its last game of the season at home against Middlebury on Saturday, Nov. 14, at 12:30 p.m.

Paul Sweeney, the Tufts sports information director, can be reached at

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