Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Marcus Williams has all the talent in the world, but he maintains the way a football player works at his craft is the difference between being good or great.
When the North Dakota State sophomore cornerback is scoring off interceptions, as he did twice in September in the Bison's victory against the University of Minnesota in his hometown of Minneapolis, it's easy to see his greatness.
But during the FCS playoffs, when opposing teams have done anything and everything to shy away from passing toward Williams, perhaps what he is doing truly defines what has made him a first-team selection on The Sports Network/Fathead.com All-America Team.
He's playing with even more focus.
Marcus Williams scored two touchdowns off his own interceptions, another off an interception-and-lateral, and another off a kickoff return.
"It forces you not to go to sleep in the back end because they can run, run, run and you'll just fall in love with the run and then they'll just throw a pass and score a touchdown real quick," Williams said. "It forces you to stay locked down play by play and know what your man is doing, so you don't get beat for the deep-ball touchdown."
If anything with Williams, the touchdowns often go the other way. North Dakota State (13-1) is headed to the NCAA Division I Championship Game against Sam Houston State on Saturday in Frisco, Texas, mostly because of the dominant defense that features Williams, who has seven interceptions and 13 pass breakups. He's scored two touchdowns off his own interceptions, another off an interception-and-lateral from safety Colton Heagle and still another off a kickoff return.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound playmaker who oozes athleticism and speed in his pro physique is perfectly suited to match Sam Houston State's perimeter speed of wide receivers Richard Sincere and Torrance Williams.
The Bison will want to get Williams involved on special teams as well. He has averaged 38.2 yards on nine returns.
In Five-a-Side - In the FCS Huddle's monthly feature of "five questions, five answers" with an influential person in the FCS - Williams discusses his playing style and the upcoming championship game.
Let's kick off:
TSN: What has been the emphasis while your team has been preparing for the national championship game?
MW: Really just getting our keys down and running our run fits, running our pass fits, just learning what we have to do to stop this offense. They have a good offense, they have good players at running back, they have good receivers, they also have a good quarterback who's been doing well this year. Just going in and learning what we have to do to get the job done.
TSN: What is your mindset when you're lining up from across your receiver?
MW: Knowing my keys, knowing what I have to do before the play even starts. Getting the play from the coaches and knowing my job if I'm going to be (in) man (coverage) or if I'm going to be in zone that play. Just taking it play by play, step by step and just going for it from there.
TSN: So tell us, are you a better cornerback or a better returner?
MW: (He laughs) I love to return, but I'm a cornerback first, that's what I came here to be. That's the position I play, it's what I love to do, guarding their best receivers. I pride myself on doing it, so I love to play corner.
TSN: You're known as a playmaker. Can you talk about that?
MW: Our coach is always saying big-time players make big-time plays in big games. And I want to be one of those players, so when the time comes or my number is called, I want to be the one to make that play to make our team win.
TSN: This will be a little more of a Sam Houston State home game than a neutral site. How does your team overcome that?
MW: It's going to be tough because they're from Texas and this game's in Texas. It's going to be fun. We have a lot of fans coming down to this game to support us. We'll see how it's going from there.
Samuel G. Freedman's "Breaking The Line" vividly recreates the world of black college football in the civil rights era with a gripping chronicle of the 1967 season for coach Eddie Robinson at Grambling State and Alonzo S. "Jake" Gaither at Florida A&M.