By Gary Brown
Marquette Athletics Director Larry Williams is a high achiever. He has to be to keep up with his family.
Williams, a four-year letter-winner in football at Notre Dame with nine years directing athletics programs at Portland and Marquette under his belt, is surrounded by success.
He and Laura, a star tennis player herself when she met her future husband in South Bend, have five children, three of whom have played football at Yale. Sean graduated in 2010, Scott just finished his senior season and Eric completed his freshman campaign. The oldest child and only daughter, Kristin, graduated from Santa Clara in 2009, got her law degree at Marshall and recently accepted a job at Tulane. Youngest son Louis is in high school.
The gaggle of uber-accomplished offspring only bolsters Williams’ commitment to the collegiate model. “I have a passion for the student-athlete who excels from a diverse set of experiences,” he said.
The apples didn’t have far to fall from a tree that began growing in Santa Ana, Calif., where Williams was enough of a football prodigy in high school to attract collegiate attention in the late 1970s, including from the Fighting Irish and Stanford. But most people might have assumed the accomplished lineman was headed to nearby Southern California, where the Trojans were churning out stars like Brad Budde, Anthony Munoz, Bruce Matthews and Don Mosebar (the latter two hosted Williams on his recruiting visit).
But Williams left the Golden State to soak up the aura of the Golden Dome on a fall football Saturday, which was unlike anything he had experienced on the West Coast. So were the pants he had to begin wearing once the smitten prospect signed.
“I had never been farther east than Arizona,” said the man who previously never had to don much more than shorts. “It was an odd feeling to have pants that rubbed against my calves.”
The outer wear didn’t deter Williams’ inner spirit. He flourished in South Bend at a time the team didn’t meet expectations under Gerry Faust. But there were some peaks to accompany the valleys, like a road vanquishing of top-ranked Pittsburgh and a visit to Baton Rouge, where the football tradition was a little different than Williams was accustomed to.
“You take a bus to the stadium with a police escort of about 20 motorcycles that are going a million miles an hour and everyone is paying attention to it all – so the atmosphere is really ramped up – and you come out of the locker room and turn right to go into the stadium and there’s a big stinkin’ Bengal tiger in a cage right there – scared the bajeezers out of me,” Williams said.
Williams was intimidating enough himself to be drafted by the Cleveland Browns, where he learned the difference between the collegiate and professional models the hard way.
Always with his nose to the grindstone, Williams earned a law degree while he was playing in the NFL and went into private practice after he hung up the cleats in 1992. Being a lawyer replaced his original goal of being a sportswriter upon entering college.
“It wasn’t until I got out of school and into the pros and had spent a bunch of time around sportswriters that I realized … hmmm … maybe not what I want to do,” Williams deadpanned. But hanging around lawyers didn’t cut it for him, either. He missed the intense competition of athletics, particularly the collegiate kind.
So he went back to South Bend to direct the licensing and product marketing efforts at his alma mater from 1999 to 2003. In 2004, he landed the AD post at Portland, where he facilitated a championship women’s soccer team, a nationally ranked men’s basketball team, a Rhodes Scholarship finalist and several Fulbright winners.
Williams was named vice president and director of athletics at Marquette on Dec. 5, 2011. He took the reins from interim AD Mike Broeker, who is now the deputy AD.
“Larry is a high-integrity individual who believes heavily in the student-athlete model,” Broeker said. “He has a definitive vision for the holistic approach to student-athlete development parallel to our university’s Jesuit mission.”
The Jesuit tradition has been a pattern for Williams, from Notre Dame to Portland to Marquette.
“That’s part of who I am,” Williams said. “It’s not exclusively who I am, but I take great value from living in an environment I believe in, and I hope it makes me a better administrator.”