By Will Vandervort.
Prior to November 14, 2013, Dayne Williams had not stepped foot in Death Valley since the greatest play since My Fair Lady.
The play is affectionately known as Puntrooskie, a word that to this day still causes even the nonchalant Clemson supporter to cringe every time they hear it uttered from someone’s mouth.
The Clemson fans who either witnessed it as part of the 82,500 on that rainy day in Death Valley or saw it live on television as part of CBS’ National Game of the Week, can still see LeRoy Butler sprinting 78 yards down the Clemson sideline and past Danny Ford before being tackled by Donnell Woolford just short of the Clemson end zone.
So how does Dayne Williams play a role in all of this? He was the quarterback, if you will, that started the whole thing. Williams, whose son Garrett signed his National Letter of Intent to play for Clemson on Wednesday morning, took the snap as one of the two up-backs in the formation, Butler was the other one.
After taking the snap on the fourth-and-four play from his own 21, Williams slipped the ball under Butler’s leg and then ran his fake to the right side in hopes to draw the defense towards him and away from Butler.
Butler stood all alone, with the ball, for about a second or two, before racing to the left and down the sideline to set up the game-winning field goal in Florida State’s 24-21 victory.
Williams went off the field celebrating with his teammates and coaches, the first of 11 straight victories for the Seminoles that year. He would not touch the playing surface at Clemson Memorial Stadium again until Garrett came to Clemson on his recruiting visit more than 25 years later.
“It was a weird feeling because the first time I stepped on that field since that play was Garrett’s first visit up there,” Williams said. “Many years had gone by and my son was thinking about coming to school here and this is right where it happened.
“I get calls literally every year to talk about that play so it is kind of ironic that Garrett is going to school there.”
But the irony behind Garrett signing as part of Clemson’s best recruiting class in history is that his father played a major role in it.
When Garrett was a high school freshman, Williams sent Clemson assistant athletic director Brad Scott, who was a part of Bobby Bowden’s offensive staff at FSU from 1983-‘93, an email. Scott then passed the message along to his son, Jeff, Clemson’s recruiting Coordinator, and the rest, as they say, is history.
“You see the past present itself again in the present, especially if you had positive experiences and, obviously, Dayne did,” Scott said.
Williams played fullback for the Seminoles from 1985-’88 after walking on the team following a brief college baseball career at South Florida Junior College. He got his opportunity to impress the coaches in his first fall camp when during Oklahoma drills the Seminoles’ two best fullbacks at the time both went down with injuries. Bowden then asked if there was anyone tough enough to get out there and withstand the drill. Williams yelled, “I can!”
“As a young player coming into a program and the coaches don’t known as much about the younger guys, and there was always pretty good talent running around down there, so when Dayne got his first opportunity, everyone was like, “Wow! This kid is pretty tough.’ He was very physical and had a good change of direction,” Scott said. “He was a tough guy. He would volunteer to do anything. He would play special teams. He just wanted to be on the field. He competed every day.
“I see the same thing in Garrett. We are getting a really fine athlete who is tough, who works at football year round and most importantly, he just represents everything Clemson looks for in a recruit with his values and family. He comes from a wonderful family and he will be a tremendous addition to our program.”
Williams scored 24 touchdowns in his two years as a starter for the Seminoles and he says 20 of them where off a play called 34-wham – a goal line play where the fullback would take it over from the one-yard line.
“He was known as the ‘Wham Man’,” Scott said. “He was the leading scorer at FSU for a long time.”
When Florida State got near the goal line, everyone knew the play was coming, but because of Williams’ toughness, no one could stop him from crossing the goal line.
“It was a running joke. Sammy Smith was our tailback and he had 20 career touchdowns and 18 of them were outside the 10-yard line because he knew that when we got the ball inside the 10-yard line, they were going to give me the ball to score,” Williams said. “It was a short yardage play and we put an extra tight end in the backfield and I had an incredible offensive tackle and tight end. The wham back was just another tight end, but they would give me the ball and it was just a simple read based on how the defense would play it and it kept working.
“That year I scored 16 touchdowns and by the end of that year when we played Florida, I scored two touchdowns in that game despite, literally, nine people lined up on the side of the wingback where the wham back was located. They still could not stop it.”
Garrett loves to hear all the stories from his dad’s playing days at Florida State – a time that began one of the greatest runs in the history of college football. From 1987—Williams’ junior year—through 2000, FSU finished in the top 5 every season, an NCAA record 15 straight years.
“I could not be more proud of my dad,” he said. “As a kid, I would always tell my friends that my dad played at Florida State and played fullback. He has scored the most touchdowns ever by a fullback at Florida State.
“He had a great career and he went on to play for the New York Giants. I idolize my dad and I made sure all my friends knew it, too.”
Now the table has been reversed. Williams now brags to his friends that his son will be playing tight end for Clemson.
“This is his time and I’m supporting him,” Williams said. “I’m excited for him and I’m excited that he has chosen this path. The easy decision would have been to go to Florida State. The tough decision is to figure out what really is the best place for him and where he felt the most comfortable and truly what is his path in life and not just following mine.
“He made the tough decision. He had a lot of good choices. It wasn’t just Florida State, think about who his top four were – Auburn, Florida State, Stanford and Clemson. Stanford was a very attractive opportunity for Garrett because he is so strong in his academics and he works hard at it. He had great opportunities and for him to choose Clemson was a testimony as to what Clemson is building up there.
“Clemson has a great program with a great leader that has put together great men.”
And now one of those great men is coming to Clemson from a guy who was a part of the greatest play in college football history.