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Tigers wideout Williams is back and better than ever

Levon Williams had no answer for the question: Why did you quit football for basketball?

The Fort Hamilton wide receiver can’t explain the decision, nor try to make sense of it, other than to blame immaturity and youth. What matters is he realized the error of his ways and quickly returned to coach Vinny Laino’s program after a one-year hiatus.

For without the 6-foot-3 Williams coming back, he wouldn’t be on the verge of a Division I scholarship – UConn, Rutgers and Pittsburgh are interested – and the third-seeded Tigers (12-0) might not be preparing for Saturday’s city championship game against No. 1 Port Richmond (12-0) at Midwood Athletic Complex.

“I feel what doesn’t kill you,” he said, “makes you stronger.”

It’s hard to imagine Williams not split out wide, making game-winning catches. On a team built upon strong line play and consistency, he stands out. He made the season-saving, 6-yard touchdown catch in last week’s 29-26 semifinal over No. 9 Wagner, his fourth touchdown and 10th reception of the postseason. During the regular season, the senior hauled in 15 passes for 280 yards and six touchdowns on offense and returned two interceptions for touchdowns on defense in addition to making 45 tackles and registering four sacks.

The year away from football was a tough one for Williams. He had played basketball and football since the age of 6, and wanted to give the other sport a try. He quickly realized his mistake – his year away from the sport Fort Hamilton went 13-0, winning its second consecutive city championship.

“I should’ve been a part of that,” he said.

Almost every day former teammates and coaches hounded him to return. When he watched the sport on television, he yearned to be in pads, back on the field, taking hits and administering them.

“I wanted to play so bad,” he said.

So Williams returned the summer before his junior year. He didn’t put up such sparkling numbers last fall, but that was merely a setup for this season. He has emerged as quarterback Frank Laino’s favorite target, a big, speedy receiver that who open.

“He has great athletic ability and natural instincts,” Vinny Laino said.

Port Richmond is well aware of what they will be facing Saturday. Fort Hamilton relies on its two-headed monster at running back, A.J. Richardson and Gardner Robinson running behind one of the best offensive lines in the city. But Williams is the deep threat, the player who can change the game.

“He finds a way to get the ball,” PR quarterback/safety Jeremy Ramos said.

When asked about Williams, Frank Laino mentioned all the physical attributes that have turned Williams into such a playmaker: his ability to find holes in zones, to out-leap defensive backs, run around and through them and avoid getting jammed at the line of scrimmage. But that he missed one year of football and has come back even better astounds the quarterback.

“Some guys,” Frank Laino said, “are just blessed with talent.”

Since returning, Williams hasn’t once doubted himself. He has grown up. Now his life is all about the gridiron.

“I wake up and think about football,” he said. “It’s my passion.”

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