You can call him William, or you can call him Mr. Champion, but whatever you do, don’t call North DeSoto left tackle William Champion “Will,” or you might get blindsided.
The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Champion will tell you that emphatically — and you’d best heed it.
“I don’t like to be called ‘Will.’ Been that way all my life. I want to be called by my full name,” he said.
Champion, who will lead the LSWA No. 7 Griffins (2-0) against LSWA No. 1 Many (2-0) in a mammoth game on Friday night in Griffindom, was named after his grandfather on his mother’s side. William Dale Ellzey was a Marine who perished in a helicopter crash on an aircraft carrier on Aug. 30, 1986.
“I’ve been told stories about him and it’s great that he dedicated his life to service to our country,” Champion said. “I’m told that if he had lived three more months he would have been flying a helicopter for the President. That would have been cool.”
Friday’s game will be Champion’s first full game back after suffering a torn meniscus in a weight lifting accident early in the summer. He missed most of the Griffins’ summer workouts, the jamboree and the home opener with Natchitoches Central.
“I used to live in Natchitoches and grew up playing football with some of those guys, so it was disappointing not to play in that game,” he said. “It’s been pretty difficult standing on the sidelines.”
Champion got in a few reps in the second half of last week’s win against Mansfield.
“William is a very vocal leader for us and I believe the reason we haven’t played well in our two wins is due to the lack of his verbal leadership in the lineup,” North DeSoto coach Scott Abernathy said. “He is a very physical kid who has a chance to play at the next level.”
Champion has attracted interest from Northwestern State, UL Lafayette, Memphis and Nicholls State. He won the overall MVP award in Baton Rouge this summer at the National Underclassman Camp, when he ran a 4.9 40.
“I was supposed to go to camp at NSU, but that was the week I had surgery on my knee,” he said.
When he isn’t on the football field, Champion is active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Future Business Leaders of America. He’s made it to state with FBLA but has yet to capture a title. He also likes hunting ducks and doves. He and some buddies harvested 15 doves on opening day on a DeSoto Parish pasture.
The Griffins are looking forward to what could be a full house on Friday night when the Tigers roll into town for a cross-class clash.
“Even though they are like 30-1, their past doesn’t really affect us,” Champion said. “There are 11 guys on the field for each team and when we step on it, we’re both going for the ‘W.’ We’re not focusing on playing Many. We’re focusing on playing perfectly.”
Abernathy knows the Tigers will offer a pretty good test of where his Griffins stand with district play right around the corner.
“We’ve played a 5A team, a rivalry game and we’ll be playing a team that hasn’t lost in 17 straight games,” Abernathy said. “If we play up to where we’re capable, we have a chance to beat a state champion. We are a pretty physical team and so are they. It should be a close game.”