PHILADELPHIA -- A year ago, he caught a touchdown pass in his team's win over Navy, but when this season started, Myreon Williams of Army had a feeling he never again would line up as a receiver in an Army-Navy game.
"I realized I was the second man up if Willie got hurt," said Williams, referring to starting quarterback William McMillian. "And the chance of a quarterback getting hurt in an option offense is pretty good."
It happened in the third game of the season, when McMillian tore ligaments in his right knee. That prompted Williams' move to quarterback, where he will start today in the 92nd meeting between the service academies.
When Williams took his first snap as quarterback in the third quarter against Harvard, the Cadets trailed by 20-7. But the senior from Paterson, N.J., led two fourth-quarter touchdown drives and scored the eventual game-winner on a 3-yard run with 1 minute, 6 seconds left in Army's 21-20 victory.
"When I made the switch, all I wanted to do was take the team downfield," Williams said. "I was just concerned about executing the basics. To come back in that game was a tremendous boost."
Army went 2-5 in games that Williams started, but it was no fault of Williams, who rushed for 818 yards (102.2 yards per game).
"He's done a tremendous job for us," said Bob Sutton, Army's first-year coach. "He took great pride in being a wide receiver and really enjoyed that. His ability to come in and play quarterback in the manner he has is a tribute to him. I can't see two many wide receivers coming in and running the offense the way he's done."
Playing quarterback is not all that new to Williams. He was a quarterback in high school and came to Army to play that position. Considered the best athlete on the team, Williams was switched to wide receiver to take advantage of his ability.
In an offense that threw the ball just six times a game, Williams caught a team-leading 13 passes for 434 yards (33.4 yards per catch) and five touchdowns last season. At 6 feet and 200 pounds, he also developed into a good blocker and was named All-East honorable mention by The Associated Press.
Williams has completed 10 of 34 passes for 210 yards and one touchdown (and five interceptions). (McMillian was 15 of 34 for 455 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception in 1990.) But that doesn't ease the concern of Navy coach George Chaump, whose team was burned with Army's one pass last year.
"With three weeks to prepare, I'm looking for Myreon Williams to be every bit as good as Willie McMillian," Chaump said. "[Williams'] throwing numbers are not impressive, but don't kid yourself. The wishbone lulls you to sleep, then, all of a sudden, they fake an option and throw the long pass. He can do that. If you throw just one pass and it scores [as Army did last year], that's impressive."
Although his team is facing its first losing season in four years, Williams sees his final collegiate game as being important to the immediate future of the Army program.
"Army went 5-6 in 1987, won the last two games," said Williams, a life sciences and pre-med major. "The next year we went 9-3 and went to the Sun Bowl. The boost from that season came from two wins at the end of the previous season."