For most college athletes, if they transfer schools or move on to the next level, the possibility that they will play with anyone from their university ever again is not likely.
For Slippery Rock football seniors, quarterback Dante Nania and linebacker Teven Williams, a love for the game and a five-year-old friendship have been the key contributions to them staying together on the collegiate and professional level.
“When I think about Dante, I think blood can’t make us any closer,” Williams said. “That’s my bro. We’ve clicked since day one when we first came to Youngstown.”
Though both athletes have two very different stories, they have been led down the same paths since their freshman year when they first entered Youngstown State University (YSU) as roommates.
Nania, a Pennsylvania native, played three years at YSU where he received playing time as a sophomore and gained a starting spot during his junior season.
Despite his success, his experience at YSU was not everything he wanted it to be, and when he first contemplated leaving, he said he thought about leaving football behind as well, until he talked to Williams who was looking to get back into the game.
The All-American linebacker from Ohio had three successful years starting at Youngstown before leaving the university due to personal situations.
He sat out an entire year of school and football before making the decision to come back. When he chose Slippery Rock he found out about his friend’s situation soon after and called him immediately, Nania said.
“Teven told me to come to SRU,” Nania said. “He told me we need one year to do it together, and after that the rest is history.”
More specifically, it was Slippery Rock history. Nania and Williams helped lead SRU to one of its best seasons in history. Finishing with a 12-2 record, The Rock made it to the quarterfinals of the division II tournament.
Nania was the MVP of the PSAC championship game and became second in program history for single-season passing yards (3,121) and total offense (3,438), while Williams, with 97 total tackles, five sacks, two interceptions that include one for an interception and two recovered fumbles helped get him named to the d2football.com and Don Hansen Football Gazette All-American teams, multiple All-Region teams and first team All-Conference.
With their collegiate careers being over, both individuals are focused on the next step.
Both have signed professional contracts to play football after they graduate. It just so happens that they will both be playing for the same team.
Nania and Williams will report to Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia in late August to attend to their first camp as members of the North Coast Heat of the National Gridiron League.
Nania signed his contract first in March. The favor of Williams influencing Nania to go to SRU was returned, as he said he talked about Williams to his new coaches and they immediately started scouting him.
“The coach contacted me originally asking about any offensive lineman who went to Slippery Rock,” Nania said. “I told him about an All-American linebacker we had and the next thing I know Tev (Williams) is signing a contract too.”
They are a family, Williams said. He refers to Nania’s parents the way he would do his own. Even though both of their situations are very different, Williams said he believes there is purpose behind staying together and it will make their transition into new waters easier.
“I believe everything happens for a reason,” Williams said. “God has us walking the same path and going through the same journey for a reason.”
Rock football head coach Shawn Lutz has been watching their journey since they got in contact with The Rock. He said there are not two players that he is more impressed with and more deserving of the opportunity ahead of them.
“They brought experience to the team,” Lutz said. “They both came in with one year of eligibility left. It’s tough being a transfer and gaining the trust of your teammates, but I think they both came here in the spring they let their play do the talking, and by the time the fall came they had the trust of their teammates. Both of those guys are lead by example guys.”
Lutz said he always believed both athletes had the potential to play at the next level, but he is still in awe that they are landing on the same team again.
“This is the third time,” Lutz said. “Tell me another pair or tandem that have played for the same three teams at the same time, and it’s in Australia. That’s pretty unique.”
Lutz is just excited for them to travel as they are. All three know the opportunity that comes with this experience beyond football. Both Williams and Nania agree that getting to be in a new culture and new environment is going to be a good learning experience. That does not mean that takes away from the reason they are there.
They are going there to play football. Neither knows what their future on the team will be, but both do know whether it by fate or by chance, they will be doing it together.
Great inspiring article Jordyn Bennett..,thanks for sharing.Never give up on your dreams or yourself !!