116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Leshon Williams took a handoff from Spencer Petras on first-and-goal, just like any other time he gets the ball.
With a cut to avoid a defender and solid blocking from fullback Monte Pottebaum and the rest of the offensive line, Williams ran untouched into the end zone. His teammates rushed to celebrate with him.
But it wasn’t like any other touchdown or any other celebration for Williams. It was a moment of joy for Williams amid a trying few weeks.
The 21-year-old Williams has been dealing with the recent death of his father.
“You never want to go through that, especially not at that age I am,” Williams said.
Williams spoke highly of the support from head coach Kirk Ferentz, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, running backs coach Ladell Betts, other coaches on staff and teammates. Williams’ loss felt “like it was their loss, too.”
“They all texted me, made sure I kept my head high,” Williams said.
Quarterback Spencer Petras said he “can’t imagine what he’s going through.”
“He doesn’t let it affect his preparation and how hard he works, which is something to be said,” Petras said. “It’s an extremely challenging thing he’s been dealing with for a couple weeks, so my hat’s off to him and my prayers for him and his family.”
Kirk Ferentz similarly noticed how “steady” Williams has been despite the personal circumstances that would leave many people anything but steady.
“His attitude never changes,” Ferentz said.
Williams missed last weekend’s game against Nevada because of his father’s funeral service. Even when Williams couldn’t physically be with his teammates, “they made me feel like I was there.”
“That’s why I love this team,” Williams said.
The Chicago native had quite the performance in his first game back. He led the team with 64 rushing yards at a clip of 5.8 yards per carry.
“It felt good to come out there and help get the win,” Williams said.
On the drive that ended in his touchdown, Williams also had a 21-yard rush to push the offense into Rutgers territory. It was the third-longest rushing play of the season, behind only Kaleb Johnson’s two touchdown carries against Nevada.
A few plays later, his joyful moment came in the end zone — Iowa’s only offensive touchdown of the night after a pick-6 and a 30-yard fumble return earlier.
Williams’ teammates were there physically to embrace him, and he sensed his late father’s presence, too.
“It was a beautiful feeling,” Williams said. “I know he was there with me tonight, so that touchdown meant a lot to me.”