Assistant Sports Editor
HOOSICK, N.Y. -- "I feel like I haven’t even had a summer yet," Tanner Williams says.
Considering his last summer ended when football season began in mid-August, about two weeks short of a full calendar year ago, one can imagine how perpetual motion could take its toll on an 18-year-old. First football, then basketball, then onto baseball -- and yet more baseball -- and that’s Williams’ year in a nutshell.
The life of an old-fashioned three-sport star.
New York state player of the year in Class C football, first-team all Wasaren League in both basketball and baseball -- what Williams accomplished in his ceaseless senior year at Hoosick Falls Central School made him the easy choice for the Bennington Banner’s 2011-12 Student Athlete of the Year.
When it came to picking one senior from all the gifted athletes in the area, there were many two-sport standouts. But, excelling in three different sports like he did, Williams stood apart.
"There’s not many around like that," said Walt Parmenter, Williams’ American Legion baseball coach for Bennington Post 13.
A five-tool player
Over the past 12 months, Williams started in three sectional title games and the Vermont Legion state final. Football provided the only championship but the remarkable run of success is one many can envy and few can match.
"After losing it’s always tough that day and the days after," Williams said. "I talk to my friends from out of town who never got that far, never won a championship, and I feel lucky and honored.
"It’s quite an honor to play on all those great teams and be a part of three sectional championship games."
Football is what the former Panther will continue to play -- he reports to preseason camp at Hartwick College in less than two weeks -- but he says baseball is his favorite sport.
"It’s always been between football and baseball. Baseball I get to play more [often]," Williams said.
And it’s the one that might have the best description of his tremendous versatility: The five-tool player.
"He can do it all. Seriously, he can play anywhere," Parmenter said.
"He can run, he can hit. He’s one of the kids, no matter where you put him you don’t worry about him," said Post 13 assistant coach Dan Pierce. "You can play him in the outfield, you can play him in the infield, he can catch, he can pitch."
On the basketball court, during a 20-2 campaign that came up one point shy of the New York state tournament, Williams, at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, used that sort of all-around athleticism as the Panthers’ defensive stopper.
"He could guard a 5-foot-7 point guard or a 6-foot-3 leaper, take them out of the game, and still run down the floor and get buckets for us," said classmate and backcourt mate Alex Lilac.
"I took pride in playing defense and trying to shut down the other team’s best player every night," Williams said.
Hoosick Falls set a program record for defense, holding opponents to just 36.6 points per game with Williams posting 11 points, five rebounds and two steals a night.
His unselfish play freed others, like Lilac, to attack and rattle off 17 wins in a row.
"Offense was always second for him and that’s what made him so special for us," Lilac said. "That’s why we had such a great year."
A gamebreaker and a team player
For Hoosick Falls football coach Ron Jones, his "typical Tanner" moment actually came during basketball season.
Williams, the Panthers’ first state player of the year, had a basketball game against rival Hoosic Valley the same night he was supposed to collect his award for state player of the year in Class C football.
Not one to abandon his team or miss out on an opportunity to frustrate one of the league’s best scorers, he chose basketball. Hoosick won by 17.
"That tells you the kind of kid he is," Jones said.
That’s not to say, though, that Williams failed to make a similar impression on the gridiron, where he was the most dynamic ball-carrier on a team Jones said was Hoosick Falls’ most explosive to date.
Amassing over 2,000 yards of total offense splitting time as a running back and wide receiver, he gained a freakish 13.7 yards per carry. He scored 30 total touchdowns in the Panthers’ 12-game march to the state semifinals.
In one game against Mechanicville, he recorded touchdowns rushing, receiving, and returning a punt and an interception.
"A couple of them were like he was in the ‘Matrix’ movies," Jones said, explaining a staggering series of jukes and shimmies. "One of them he disappeared into a pile of bodies and came out of it scoring."
All totaled, Williams was a key piece to three consecutive Class C Super Bowl victories.
Jones said his star’s work ethic and off-season weight room regimen, combined with his prodigious talent, was a critical factor in his team’s dominant campaign.
"I think the difference was him setting out to work on the small weaknesses that he had," Jones said. "If your best athlete was willing to work hard, it sends a message to the rest of the team."
Williams, the team player, has a different take.
"I’ve been playing on a great team my whole life. Without them my name wouldn’t be in the paper and I wouldn’t have all the accolades that I do," he said.