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Former Appalachian State quarterback tries his hand on pit road

By Tommy Bowman
Winston-Salem Journal

Formerly seen navigating opposing defenses with a football in hand, Richie Williams now can be found scurrying around stock cars at NASCAR’s biggest tracks.

Williams will long be remembered for leading Appalachian State to the first of its three NCAA Football Championship Subdivision national titles as a quarterback in 2005.

These days, he’s trying to make a name for himself in the competitive pit-crew game of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing.

Williams, one of several former football players who have gone on to careers as NASCAR crew members, will do double duty as a jack man this weekend for Trevor Bayne of Wood Brothers and Roush Fenway Racing teams in both Nationwide and Sprint Cup races at Texas Motor Speedway.

It’s a different career for Williams but one with parallels to football.

After playing three seasons in the Canadian Football League, Williams, through contact with former Appalachain State player and current NASCAR crewman Mike Metcalf, got a start in NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program and was recruited by teams as a result.

“The process is a lot like football,” said Williams, the 2005 Southern Conference player of the year. “They look for athletes.”

He made his Sprint Cup debut last year in the Daytona 500, as a jack man for driver Michael McDowell, and signed on with Roush Fenway last July. Wood Brothers, which has a partnership with Roush Fenway, runs a limited Cup schedule with Bayne.

Williams, 30, who lives in Charlotte, hopes to eventually be a full-time Cup crewman.

“You want to be there on Sundays,” he said. “That’s the goal. The job is the same (as Nationwide); you’re going for the most competitive stops you can do, but you want to be out there for the big show.”

Williams said the competitiveness is like any sport.

“It’s hard enough getting into this sport, but it’s even harder to stay in the sport,” he said. “Once you do have the opportunity to move up to a Cup team, you have to prove yourself week in and week out – or they will pull you if you mess up.”

Quite like being a quarterback, he said.

“Pretty much,” Williams said. “It’s a lot the same as playing any sport. It’s about competition and the team aspect.

“What I do, the key is no mistakes. And you’ve got to be able to keep an eye on everything that’s going on around you. It (being a jack man) pretty much starts with you and ends with you. You have to check off on everybody and make sure their job is done, and you’ve got to be able to think under pressure. You’ve got to be able to handle the pressure and perform.”

Williams said he trains four days a week.

“We have two lift days and two cardio days, and are off on Friday,” he said. “And the majority of us work in the shop, too. During the week, I work in the shop in the decal department.”

He said that he has always loved racing, growing up in stock-car country in South Carolina.

“I just never imagined I’d be able to do it,” Williams said. “I watched races from the time I was about 10 years old. My goal is to be full-time Sprint Cup, and win a Cup championship. “I was able to do that in college, up on the mountaintop, and I would love to do that on the professional level. That’s my goal.”

The Winston-Salem Journal is a news partner of the Observer. For more Appalachian State coverage go to http://www.journalnow.com/sports/asu/

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