JANESVILLE—Uriahs Williams is a solid kid who stands squarely on both feet.
He's an 18-year-old who knows whom to thank and does, who cares for his younger brother and who has been held together by sports and a network of generous adults, teachers and friends.
That's really all you need to know about him.
Williams crossed the stage Wednesday as part of the Craig High School Class of 2017. Teachers and staff picked Williams as their standout senior.
You might have seen his name in the paper already.
He played four years of football and was named team captain this year. He ran in track for three years and participated in wrestling his senior year.
The most difficult part of high school has been not living at home, Williams said.
For the past year, he's been living with friends' families.
“There were a lot of things going on in my home,” Williams said, without going into details.
How did he make it through?
“There were quite a few teachers that directed me down the right path,” Williams said. “They helped me keep up with my grades and helped me stay positive so I can do what I need to do get out of here and be successful.”
The worst part about not being home was not being able to see his younger brother, Xytavious, who is 10. Williams said he missed him a lot.
He said sports helped him the most.
“Sports is something that I've held on to the most,” Williams said. “Leaving high school, knowing there won't be sports, it's kind of scared me a little bit.”
Sports gave him structure and friends. It gave him motivation to succeed in school and connected him with a group of adults who were willing to help him out.
In football, he was the starting running back. In track, his specialty was the 300 hurdles, and he wrestled at 195 pounds.
“I got lucky, and they voted me team captain my senior year,” Williams said.
That's not luck, said Ben McCormick, former Craig High School football coach.
Being chosen as team captain is a tribute to Williams' leadership and his ability to motivate people, McCormick said.
“The big thing about that is it comes from your peers,” McCormick said. “They see the hard work and dedication that he's put in. He's a true team guy. He's a guy that wants to win, and he's very selfless.
Sports taught him discipline, too: training in the weight room, off-season workouts and regular practices. Along with all the training, wrestling requires—ick— salad.
He decided to wrestle at 195 pounds, meaning he had to lose 20 pounds.
“I had start eating a lot of salad, which I never eat,” Williams said.
Sherri Rudkin, Craig High School student services specialist, described Williams as a “genuinely nice young man.”
“He's a very hardworking,” Rudkin said. “He's overcome a lot of obstacles that other students his age didn't have to overcome when they were going through high school. He's resilient.”
He's a grateful young man, too.
Williams wanted to publicly thank the families he lived with in the past year. They include Will and Jessica Pech, the parents of friend Morgan Pech; and Tony and Michele Vultaggio, the parents of his friend Brenden Vultaggio.
“I'm going to remember that for the rest of my life,” Williams said.
Things with his family are getting better.
After graduation, he plans to go to work at a local company where his father helped him get a job.
Next fall, he plans to live with his mother and attend Waukesha Tech to become a paramedic/firefighter.
He was inspired to pursue that career after seeing paramedics help his mother when she was sick.
How will he make it through without the structure of high school and the support he found in team sports?
“Basically, just the fact that it's my life,” Williams said.