Player Spotlight: Mike Williamson
Penn State hockey’s magical run will continue after a spectacular performance in the Big Ten Tournament, beating both Minnesota and Wisconsin in double overtime. With these wins, the Nittany Lions clinched a spot in the NCAA tournament, where they will take on Union in the first round. This run has been special one for many seniors, but none more than senior volunteer assistant coach, and former player, Mike Williamson.
Williamson battled back injuries ever since arriving on campus as a freshman in 2013. A 6''3' defensemen, he had all the tools to be special at Penn State, playing in 27 games his freshman year, netting two goals and four assists. His sophomore season was when the back trouble really started to affect his performance, only playing in 16 games, finishing with one goal, one assist, and blocking 25 shots. This was when Williamson had to make a difficult decision. He chose to end his career as a player and was able to find a way to stay on as a volunteer assistant coach for Guy Gadowsky’s staff.
“It was a little tough, but it was at the point though where I had to consider my personal health for the rest of my life,” Williamson explained. “So I thought, obviously it’s a choice that had to happen even though it was difficult it’s paying off because I’m feeling better physically, and I still get to be around these guys every day.”
He still gets to hang around the team all the time and is really still considered “one of the guys,” as said by senior defenseman David Thompson. While it was tough, Williamson has really found that coaching has helped the healing process.
“I kind of looked like the hunch back of Notre Dame for a little bit,” he joked. “Not super comfortable all the time but I would say being able to do this (coaching) has made it a lot better.”
The most interesting aspect of this move was the fact that Williamson was still the same age or younger than many of the players. “It really depends on the situation really, I’m not really put in too many of those spots where I need to crack the whip because I’m not really sure that I could,” Williamson remarked, looking at his teammates beside him. “But everyone’s been really good and treated me as a member of the team, which as a retired player really means a lot to me because I still love the game, so it means a lot to me."
This team has absolutely been one of the most special in Penn State hockey’s young history, setting many records on the ice. While the players still consider Williamson a close friend, he clearly knows the X’s and O’s as a coach as well.
“I think at this point it’s a matter of keep doing what we have been doing. To go out and tell them (the players) to not worry about things or to treat this a specific way, I don’t think would be helpful. If we can keep playing Penn State Hockey I think the entire team will be just fine,” Williamson said about this upcoming first round tournament game. He is a strong, supportive leader of the team and a good communicator between the coaches and players. Williamson may not have had the career with Penn State that he imagined, but his presence has been felt in other ways.
Brian McLaughlin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Senior / Broadcast Journalism