Trae Williams, CB (2004-07)
Trae Williams played most of his USF career with a target on his back. When you line up at cornerback opposite Mike Jenkins, and opposing defenses decide they won’t even try throwing in that direction, those passes have to go somewhere. It put Williams on the spot to make plays. He made a ton of them.
For someone who ended up being so gifted at taking the ball away from the offense, it might surprise you that when Williams was recruited to USF out of Plant City’s Durant High School, it was to play offense. He had played both ways for the Cougars, but signed on to the 2003 recruiting class as a running back and stayed there during his redshirt season. By 2004 he had moved to cornerback. In his very first game he returned an interception for a touchdown against Tennessee Tech, creating some breathing space in an alarmingly close game. Trae cracked the starting lineup by midseason, and except for one senior night where he stepped aside to let senior D’Juan Brown get a start, he stayed there.
And he produced, especially in his last two years. Williams finished his USF career with 160 tackles, 22 pass breakups, and 16 interceptions, only two behind J.R. Reed’s school record. He had seven interceptions in 2006, tied for the single-season record, and six more in 2007. (The 13 combined INTs in those two seasons were more than anyone in FBS.) Four of those picks were returned for touchdowns, including three on consecutive interceptions in 2007, against Cincinnati, Louisville, and Pittsburgh. The three pick-sixes in a season and four in a career are both school records as well.
A lot of those tackles were in run support, too. Wide receivers didn’t catch too many passes on Trae. When cornerbacks have really high tackle numbers, and they don’t have a lot of interceptions to their name, that normally means they gave up a ton of completions. That’s why Williams made our list, and not another player that I think a lot of people would have expected us to add. Trae was a ball hawk, a suffocating defender, and when teams tried to pick on him, he made them pay dearly.
Trae ended up being drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he never got a real shot at the NFL. He didn’t make the Jaguars’ roster, spent a couple of seasons on various practice squads, and was out of the pros by 2010. In 2012, he returned to Durant High School as a secondary coach.
Click on the “20 For 20” box at the top of this story to see all previous inductees. Five new players are being added to the original group of 15 this year, and they are being announced in alphabetical order. The first four new players were B.J. Daniels, Andre Davis, Marlon Mack, and Tyrone McKenzie.