Apr 28, 2017

Shawn Williams scored.jpgBy Craig Rybczynski -- This evening, the Rochester Knighthawks will welcome the franchise’s all-time assist leader, Shawn Williams, into the team’s Hall of Fame. Williams becomes its 16th member and the sixth player from the 2007 championship team to be enshrined into the prestigious club.

“It’s a huge honor to be recognized by such a storied franchise,” he said. “I am very grateful and excited at the same time.”

“Willy” played in Rochester for 10 seasons (2002 to 2011) and was one of the offensive and emotional leaders of the great Knighthawks’ teams of the early 2000s. For three of those seasons, he served as the captain, wearing the “C” from 2009 to 2011.

Williams led the Knighthawks to nine postseason berths and two trips to the NLL Finals. In 2007, he was instrumental in bringing a second Champion’s Cup to Rochester. During the playoff run, he led the Knighthawks and was tied for the NLL lead in points with 19.

“Willy was a superstar, a great player and a great team guy,” said Knighthawks VP of Player Personnel Jody Gage. “He was an important part of our success; he brought it every night.”

The 2007 season was his most memorable in Rochester, as he helped the Knighthawks win a franchise-record 12 straight regular season games to lock up the top spot in the National Lacrosse League. The Knighthawks then roared through the postseason, knocking off Toronto, Buffalo and Arizona to win the Champion’s Cup.

The closeness of the group fueled their success as the players from Canada and upstate New York came together to go on a historic run under the banner of “No Borders.”

“Our team was so tight all those years. It was a family atmosphere with the whole upstate and Canada thing. The way we played was very similar and we gravitated toward each other,” said Williams. “We started winning and we couldn’t stop. We just kept believing, no matter if we were down a bunch or up a bunch, and we always thought we were going to win.”

In his Knighthawks career, Williams ranks first in assists (492), and second in goals (309) and points (801). He also stands third in games played with 160. Playing alongside the likes of Grant, and Scott and Shawn Evans, Williams had a career season in 2009, notching 67 assists and 93 points.

Paul Day, who coached Williams for five seasons, said Willy was one of the most dependable players to ever wear a Knighthawks sweater. That was never more apparent than during the 2003-04 season, when Rochester – playing without John Grant Jr. for most of the season – turned to Williams to shoulder the offensive burden on the left side.

“He willed us into the playoffs in 2004. I think it was one of his best years, and we had no other lefts,” said Day of Williams’ 81-point season. “He was a great leader and a great teammate. He was always team first and had a great mind for the game. He was truly a great Knighthawk and an old-school player.”

The Scarborough, Ontario native played 17 seasons (1998-2014) in the NLL and suited up for Rochester, Buffalo, Toronto, Ontario and Edmonton. Williams won two Champion’s Cups, earning his first with the Rock in 1999 and his last with the Knighthawks in 2007.

[IMG_0035] His offensive numbers place him among the league’s all-time greats, as he stands eighth in goals (444), sixth in assists (708), seventh in points (1,152), and fourth in games played (257). Williams also owns the second longest “Iron Man” streak in NLL history, playing in 230 consecutive games. During his tenure in Rochester, he was named an All-Pro twice (2004 and 2007), and in 2010 he received the league’s Sportsmanship Award.

“Everything he said he backed up with his actions,” said former teammate and current Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. “He had a knack for getting the guys up and ready. He was always making sure we were good to go.”

Shawn Williams family.jpgNo matter where his career took him, Williams treated his teammates like they were an extension of his family. Shawn brought that passion and energy to the turf every night. He had a special relationship with John Grant Jr., who he teamed up with to form one of the greatest one-two punches in league history. Grant, who played with Williams for nine seasons in Rochester, had high praise for his former teammate and longtime friend.

“To me, Shawn can only be classified as my brother,” said Grant. “I love that guy and his family. He was my favorite teammate and he made me better everyday because of his tireless work ethic and selfless play. He was a team/family-first guy 100 percent of the time and he was the greatest leader I played with. Willy should be recognized as one of the best players in history. Congrats ‘Willdog!’”

Knighthawks Hall of Famer Chris Schiller also remembered Shawn’s dedication to his wife, Tamara, and their children Dylana, Dyson and Tucker.

[williefamily] “During my career with the Knighthawks, I looked up to a lot of individuals because of what they did on the field. Shawn Williams was definitely one of those guys I tried to emulate,” said Schiller. “But it was not only for the man and leader he was on the floor, but for the father he was off the floor. I saw a man who brought his sons into the locker room and coached them on what was wrong and right. They looked up to him for all the right reasons.

“I remember during a home game watching Shawn at shootaround with his sons and thought to myself that is exactly who I want to be as a father. Shawn is a strong, caring dad and husband. He is a man everyone can look up to. I am proud to have spent as much time as I did with him as a teammate and friend.”

On Hall of Fame Night, Shawn will have his wife and kids, Dylana and Dyson, by his side. As he accepts his place among the greatest players in Knighthawks history, Shawn will also remember his son Tucker, who passed away in 2014.

“It was a special place to play; I spent 10 years there. I got to watch my kids and family grow up while playing for the Knighthawks,” he said. “I have mixed emotions; however, I know Tucker will be standing right there with us.”

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