THE PENNANT PLAYER PROFILE
By RICK PETERSON
In four seasons with the Washburn University men's basketball team, Jace Williams registered 56 blocked shots, including a career-high 24 last season.
But none of those blocks were bigger than the 6-foot-5 senior receiver delivered for the Ichabods' football team in last Saturday's 28-26 MIAA victory at Pittsburg State.
With Washburn nursing its two-point lead, Pittsburg State drove deep into Ichabod territory and had a 33-yard field goal attempt to take the lead before Williams came up with the play of the game and one of the biggest of the season, swatting away the attempt with 30 seconds remaining to save the day for the Ichabods.
Washburn has used Williams on defense in similar situations, but Saturday was the first time the play ended with a block.
"I've done it every year I've been here, but this is just the first one I've blocked so everyone was kind of wondering if it was a real thing or not, but we've practiced it,'' Williams said. "I've done it a few times before but that was the first time I got my hands on one.
"The D-line tries to get a good push and however far they push is as close as I try to get. They gave me a ton of room so I had plenty of room to step up and just jumped up in the air.''
Still, it took a second or so before Williams knew for sure that his effort was a success.
"It got a pretty good piece of my left hand, but I saw it still moving toward the goalpost so I wasn't sure if I got enough of it,'' he said. "But to see it fall short, obviously I got enough of it.''
It came in a different sport and a different situation, but Williams felt like his basketball instincts kicked in at Pitt State.
"I pretty much took the same steps,'' he said. "The only thing is on a football field you can swing your arms through, there's no foul, so I got a piece of it and finished through. In basketball I'd have to make sure I kept my arms straight up or it's a foul.
"It was a little different but the idea of jumping straight up in the air and getting my hands as high as possible was definitely right in line with trying to protect the rim.''
The game-saving play ranks high on Williams' list in a career that has included numerous highlights.
"It's definitely up there,'' he said. "Funny enough, I have an interception in a game, I've rushed for a touchdown, I've caught a touchdown, I've completed a pass and now I have a blocked field goal so I just added that to the list of weird plays I've done or been a part of. It's definitely cool and really cool that I get to add it to the list of things I've done.''
Saturday's block came on a day that Washburn put itself in a precarious situation with turnovers and penalties, but instead of a heartbreaking loss the Ichabods escaped with their fifth straight win while improving to 8-2 on the season heading into Saturday's Senior Day game against Missouri Southern at Yager Stadium.
"It was pretty funny because a couple of guys came up to me and were saying, 'Thanks for saving my butt,' or whatever but all I ever ask for is an opportunity to win the game late in the game,'' said Williams, a former Buhler standout. "We were there, we had an opportunity to win and we made the play we needed to win late.
"To be able to hop into victory formation at the end of any game is obviously a great feeling.''