A Friend Indeed
Myles Williams was late for his eighth-grade math class so often at Hale Charter Academy in Woodland Hills that he finally was subjected to a meeting with his parents and teacher.
Turns out he had a pretty good excuse.
Math came right after lunch, and instead of going straight to class, Williams was helping another student with special needs make it to her P.E. class on time. He simply didn't tell anybody why he kept getting delayed.
"He wasn't in trouble anymore after that," said Troy Looper, Williams' stepfather. "They just couldn't figure out why he was late. We thought he was being social, talking to friends. They actually put something in to allow him 10 extra minutes to get to that class, and he continued to help this girl out the rest of the school year."
Williams was one of 19 prospects to sign a National Letter of Intent on Wednesday to join the Cal football program in 2021. A three-star recruit from Bishop Alemany High School in Mission Hills, Williams is a 6-foot-5, 270-pound defensive lineman who has only played football for three years.
"It's pretty exciting knowing the limited amount of football he's played compared to other guys that have been playing for a long time," Cal defensive line coach Andrew Browning said. "He's going to experience so much more growth the more he continues to play."
Considering Williams' upbringing, his desire to help a special needs student shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Both Looper and Williams' mother, Maria Looper, have had long careers working with special needs children. Troy teaches adaptive P.E. for special needs children while Maria is a classroom assistant at a vocational training school for special education students. Both are employed by the Los Angeles Unified School District.
"He has that foundation of being around our special needs population his whole life," Troy Looper said. "He really looks out for kids who need something."
Troy Looper spends the school year traveling to different schools of all levels in the district to administer P.E. to students with various disabilities. In the summer, he teaches P.E. for an Extended School Year program, a special education program for disabled students.
For the past 10 years, that's how Williams has spent his summers, as well. Looper started bringing Williams every day when he was about 7, and not just so he wouldn't have to be home alone. Looper put Williams to work.
"I break off into different groups for different activities, and I have him take a group on his own," Looper said. "He would lead the instruction. He really has a passion for that and that population of students. He enjoys it, and they enjoy him being there, as well."
Even at age 7, Williams helped his stepdad out by setting up and breaking down activities or demonstrating a drill for the attendees. He started leading his own groups around the age of 13.
"It was really fun getting to teach the kids," Williams said. "It put a lot of things into perspective. A lot of these kids don't even know what's going on. They are sitting there in a wheelchair and can't participate. You can look into these kids' eyes and see they just want to get out there. It definitely made me realize how lucky I am to be able to play the sport I do, and have the success that I've had."
Williams has also helped out at home more than most kids in his age group. Five years ago, the family adopted a newborn girl, Kawhi, and Williams immediately started helping by changing diapers, feeding bottles and babysitting.
"It definitely feels like a dad role," Williams said. "I still have that sibling connection where we do stuff together, cause a little mischief in the house. But there is a little mentor aspect of it. She copies everything I do."
While Williams won't be around as much to make an impact on his family and community when he gets to Berkeley, it will be the Golden Bear program that will start reaping the benefits of his character.
"Myles is a special young man," Browning said. "As much as we are always looking for guys who have the necessary physical tools to be successful as football players, we are also looking for guys that fit our program, who are going to be strong members of the community and on campus, and strong in their performance with their academics. We want guys that can be leaders in their position room and within the team in general, and Myles definitely fits that profile. That's why we are so excited about him."