Former Orangeburg Prep standout Mike Williamson has a chance to be the starting punter for the South Carolina Gamecocks, but his journey to this point is anything but typical.
Williamson’s path from Norway to Columbia took a major detour to another Columbia: Columbia University in New York City. He was a wide receiver and punter in high school, and Columbia promised him a chance to play receiver in college, plus get an Ivy League education.
Once he became the starting punter, though, Columbia’s coaches no longer wanted Williamson working with the receivers. Following his freshman year, Williamson decided that Columbia was not a good fit on or off the field, and decided to transfer to South Carolina.
“It was complete culture shock,” he said. “Going from Norway to Manhattan, it was going from somewhere with 350 people to somewhere with 350 people in your dorm. It was crazy.”
The move meant giving up an Ivy League education, but the chance to compete in the Southeastern Conference made up for it.
Williamson enrolled at USC during the fall of 2010 and joined the football team the following spring as a walk-on. He quickly made a name for himself with booming punts, but struggled with consistency.
“It’s frustrating, man,” said Williamson, who was named the Most Improved Punter at halftime of USC’s 2012 Garnet and Black Spring Game. “You go up there and you see yourself kick it 70 yards and you’re like, ‘I hardly even kicked that.’ Then you go up there and try to do it again and you shank it off to the right.”
Williamson’s problem was in his drop. Instead of making sure he released the ball the same way every time, he tried to kick it as far as possible. The result was that the football would often come off the side of his foot.
To get better, Williamson spent the summer working out with Joey Scribner-Howard, the Gamecocks’ starting punter last season. Scribner-Howard made Williamson do 100 drops every day before they started the rest of the workout. Scribner-Howard also made Williamson kick in the Gamecocks’ indoor practice facility, where space is limited.
“I come out here, I get excited and I try to kick the ball as far as I can and wear my leg out, but I don’t get much work done,” Williamson said. “He made me go to the indoor a lot just to work on technique. You can’t kill it in the indoor, you’ve just got to stroke it.”
Williamson and sophomore Patrick Fish were listed as co-starters after spring practice but Williamson was listed as the starter on the preseason depth chart. If his work over the summer results in better consistency, Williamson could go into the season as the starter.