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Credit To Zed

Title Game MVP Is In A Class By Himself, On And Off The Field

Zed Williams cuts out a piece of the net from one of the goals following the Whipsnakes victory Sunday. Photo courtesy of Premier Lacrosse League

It’s been more than seven years since I first laid eyes on Zed Williams.

But what impressed me most about him that winter night in the Frewsburg Central School gymnasium was not about how well he played in Silver Creek’s basketball victory over the Bears — trust me, he was brilliant — but it was more about how well he conducted himself after the final horn sounded.

Greeted by family, friends and even complete strangers after the Black Knights’ victory, he showed maturity and humbleness that belied his age, a young man who clearly had his feet planted firmly on the ground while he was taking his athletic talents to amazing heights.

A standout on the gridiron and the hardwood, Williams’ true calling has been in lacrosse — he still holds the national high school record for goals and points in a career — which earned him a scholarship at the University of Virginia and, later, several professional opportunities.

Sunday afternoon, playing for the Whipsnakes of the Premier Lacrosse League, may have been his finest moment on the field as Williams scored six goals, including five in the fourth quarter, to lead his team to a 12-6 come-from-behind victory over the Chaos for it second straight title.

Zed Williams celebrates with his Whipsnakes teammates after they won the Premier Lacrosse League championship on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Premier Lacrosse League

Naturally, the young man who grew up on the Seneca Indian Reservation in Irving did his best to deflect the attention away from himself and in the direction of his teammates.

“I know the whole game our defense kept us in it,” Williams said in a postgame interview that was broadcast nationally on NBC. “Kyle (Bernlohr) was standing on his head (in goal). I knew they were going to give us possessions. … I knew I had to make something happen in the fourth quarter.”

And, then, after dedicating the victory to his late father, an emotional Williams excused himself from the interview.

His teammates sure didn’t mind talking about him, though.

“Zed, man, you’ve got to give credit to him,” Matt Rambo told NBC. “He stepped up big. Thank God we have Zed on our team now.”

Bernlohr was even more effusive in his praise.

“(Williams) is the nicest kid I’ve ever met in my life,” he said. “Individually, he’s just so talented. It was just an unbelievable draft pick by Coach (Jim) Stagnitta. You can’t say enough good things about Zed.”

That’s been a pattern since mid-afternoon Sunday. The PLL has already produced a T-shirt with Williams’ likeness on it; and he is trending on Twitter with comments that include: “It’s Zed Williams’ world and we’re just living it,” and “We’re not worthy of Zed Williams” among the highlights. Not surprisingly, Williams won’t know about all that attention unless someone shows him, because he’s not a social media kind of guy, which kind of fits his style.

“You certainly have to credit Zed Williams the way he shot the ball down the stretch,” Chaos coach Andy Towers told NBC after the title game. “That kid made some incredible shots against arguably the best player and definitely the best goalie on the planet.”

As legend has it, Vince Lombardi, the Hall-of-Fame coach of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, once admonished one of his players for dancing after scoring a touchdown.

“Travis,” Lombardi yelled, “the next time you make it to the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.”

Travis’ last name, ironically enough, was Williams, a kickoff return specialist.

More than 50 years later, another Williams — this one from Western New York — needed no such reminding from his coach.

Zed let his Most Valuable Player trophy do the talking for him.

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