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Travis Williams always walks the "Tiger Walk"

by Brooks Webb, Senior Writer, AuburnEagle.com

You may know him as the undersized defender who made SEC opponents pay in his glory days at Auburn, including a 13-0 season in 2004. Or you may know him for patrolling the Auburn sidelines as a graduate assistant coach, someone Gene Chizik knew was cut out for the job because in his time at Auburn, “he did it the right way.” Some may even remember Williams for his stint with the Atlanta Falcons, until back injuries forced his NFL career to end sooner rather than later. And lastly, you might know him as T-Will, his performer name as a hip-hop artist. That’s right, he’s a fairly accomplished guy, and he’s just getting started.

Travis Williams is more than meets the eye, and no matter what the odds, he knows what it takes to succeed. After putting up numbers many didn’t think he could, and leading Auburn in tackling in 2004 and finishing second in 2005, Williams signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2006. That didn’t go as planned, as back problems forced him to search for another career path.

He toyed around with coaching in his home state of South Carolina where he realized that it was his passion. “I knew I loved being around the kids. I kind of live through them since I’m done playing. As long as I’m around football, I’m happy. It’s not just about football, it’s about changing lives through it. You’re helping to mold men, and teach them lessons. I tell them that while you’re here you want to have fun knocking some guys out on the football field, but you need to be here to learn at the same time,” said Williams.

Asked if coaching and playing compared at all, Williams gave a resounding “no” before he laughed and continued. “It’s never close enough between the two. I definitely miss playing, and it’s the not the same at all. At the same time though, I get a lot of satisfaction from it. On the field you get praised for making the big play, but it’s cool to go over something all week in practice as a coach and see it work. Seeing the kids make plays is great,” he added.

It’s no secret Williams loves Auburn, or Coach Chizik may not have filled his GA spot with someone with little coaching experience. There are no regrets from that decision by either party. “Working with Coach Chizik is definitely work, but its fun. He loves to compete, and that’s what I’m all about. He challenges us, and constantly wants to make everyone better,” Williams said.

People across the country have seen the differences and the plan Auburn has to get back to the top, and Williams recognizes that while it isn’t an overnight thing, the team makes progress by the day. “We brought in a great recruiting class last year, and that’s all fine and dandy, but we have yet to see them actually get here to see if they can play ball. We’re definitely headed in the right direction with recruiting. We’re getting Auburn guys, guys we want. At the same time, we can’t jump the gun, but we can be a force to be reckoned with.”

It’s hard for anyone to label their favorite thing about Auburn, and though Williams has many, he knew immediately what his favorite was. “The people. They embrace the players, the athletic program, just all of it. They respect everyone, and it’s not just the fans, it’s the people of Auburn. It’s the same way with everyone. All the former players I still talk to, the friendships I have gained from Auburn, it’s a great place.  The atmosphere…I mean I go to the store, and people still know me, and that’s something that’s different about Auburn,” said Williams.

When people here “collegiate coach” and “hip-hop artist”, you might think the two may not go well together. However, T-Will has found the medium and the capability to handle both. “I started a few years ago when I was with Atlanta, just playing around and making beats, and it’s just something I love to do.” Does Williams have a hit yet? You may have heard it, but if you haven’t, you will. What better thing to start off with than what you know best? T-Will’s first major song is titled “Tiger Walk.”

“They were making the new Auburn Football website (www.auburnwareagle.com) and they needed a hip hop song. My producers did a great job of making the beat and from there it just became a great song. We got some good sound bites of Coach Chiz and it just kind of came together. When the season starts it’ll blow it out of the park when it’s being played for over 80,000 people,” he said.

If you haven’t heard it, never fear, you can find it right here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qf6Y2_dFhrs

The song was one of the nominees from the Auburn Athletic Department in the fan vote for the pr-game song, but the winner won’t be announced until the Arkansas State season opener. Regardless, the song will be played at games, and Williams is more than excited about that. “I’m gonna let this song go around for year or two, then I’ll start working on another Auburn song. Like a Tiger Walk remix with former players and highlights and stuff. I definitely have some things up my sleeves,” Williams continued.

Williams obviously can’t be a graduate assistant forever, but he’s happy where he is and whatever the future holds. When asked where he’d like to be in five years, he gave an answer that surprised even me, but with Williams determination, he just may be able to accomplish it. “I’d like to win a Grammy, and if that doesn’t work out, then I’ll be the absolute best coach I can be. I’ve been tutored by the best, so I want to be the best. Either way, I’m blessed.”

Think he’s joking, or can’t do it? Think again. Williams was listed at 213 pounds his senior season, but would you believe it that he was actually under 200 pounds? “I was never over 212 pounds at any point, and I was 198 pounds at the end of the season playing linebacker in the SEC,” said Williams.

That’s dangerously undersized, but the way Williams played, you’d think he weighed 250 pounds. Something else you may not know about the former Auburn standout? He’s addicted to the show First 48, and he also is a huge dog lover and raises pit bulls.

With the current task at hand, the 2010 Auburn Football season, Williams is trying to keep it in perspective and knows you can’t put a number on wins or expectations. “We’ve got to be better than last year. We can’t predict the future obviously, because anything can happen. If we’re better than last year, then we took a step forward,” he concluded.

Regardless of whether Williams coaches at Auburn his whole life or not, he’s bound to be successful in whatever he does. He’s been against the odds before, and each time, he’s bounced back. Auburn is lucky to have a player who’s been there, and knows how it’s done. Not just how it’s done, but done the Auburn way. Travis Williams was already a well respected name in Auburn lore before he returned to coach, so the things he’s done, people truly respect.

You’ll see Travis Williams teaching and coaching on the sidelines all season, which is no surprise. To top things off, you’ll get to hear T-Will coming over the speakers at Jordan-Hare with “Tiger Walk,” and if that song doesn’t get you hyped as an Auburn fan, I don’t know what will.

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