Williamson completes road to redemption

PASADENA, Calif. -- Above each player's locker is a name plate that slides in and out. Following the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio Tuesday night, Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson stood on his chair, slid his name plate out and stuck it in his backpack.

He wanted to remember the Rose Bowl.

It’s a far cry from where Williamson was 364 days ago. A day that was, for lack of kinder words, forgettable. In that locker room in Glendale, Ariz., Williamson sat in a corner, alone, and sobbing uncontrollably into a towel. A missed field goal at the end of regulation and a missed field goal in overtime were contributing factors in Stanford’s 41-38 loss to Oklahoma State. Actually, he was just 1-of-4 kicking on that disappointing day -- which included a 35-yarder with three seconds left in the game.

But Tuesday night, he nailed a 47-yard field goal in the second quarter and drilled a 22-yarder in the fourth quarter. Six points, it turned out, were the difference in Stanford’s 20-14 win over Wisconsin.

“It was definitely a long road,” said Williamson. “I wouldn’t have been able to come full circle without these teammates and all the support I was given. I’m glad they kept the faith in me and let me kick. The team played great. Couldn’t have done it without these guys. The defense stepped up and did what they did. They were clutch.”

Last year, everyone wanted to talk to Williamson. But he wouldn’t talk, couldn't talk. Instead, a nameless Stanford offensive linemen who happened to go in the first round of the NFL draft and now plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers -- we won’t say who -- used some colorful language to a reporter who tried to approach Williamson. (No, it wasn’t me).

Tuesday night, Williamson sat alone again. Only this time there were no reporters hounding him. He was just there, despite a 2-for-2 performance. Welcome to the life of a kicker.

“It’s something you get used to and I didn’t realize how it was until I got here and went through all of the situations,” Williamson said. “I’ve learned to embrace it.”

If this was the final stop on Williamson's road to redemption then the critical step came when he hit a 37-yard field goal at Oregon in overtime. That kick gave the Cardinal a 17-14 win over the nation's top team at the time.

“He’s grown up,” said Stanford head coach David Shaw. “He’s only a sophomore and he’s going to keep growing. He’s got so much talent. I’m watching him in warmups and he’s kicking the ball from 60 yards. And all I said to him all day was 'swing smooth.' That’s all he does. When he swings smooth, he can kick it from anywhere ... there was no doubt on those field goals. He put them through the pipes. And that’s our expectation for him and that’s his expectation for himself. He’s got the ability to be one of the best kickers in college football if he stays with it and hopefully he’s on that path.”