Duane Williams, 2013 Inductee

Duane Williams

Williams, a 1973 North High graduate, was a three-sport varsity athlete in football (3 years), wrestling (4years) and baseball (2 years). In football, under Coach Eliades, he was an All-Area selection playing on two league championship teams in 1970 and 1971. In wrestling, he was a 2-time league and CIF central section champion in 1972 and 1973. In baseball, under Coach Barton, he was on North’s league championship teams in 1972 and 1973.  In 1973, he was selected “FCA” Kern County Athlete of the Year. He went on to play football and wrestled at Bakersfield College in 1973 & 1974.  In football, he was selected First Team All-League. All-State, and All-American. In wrestling he was Metro League Champion on BC’s 1974 championship wrestling team. He was selected BC freshman Athlete and BC Scholar-Athlete of the year in 1974. He received a football scholarship to play for the University of California at Berkeley (CAL) under Coach Mike White.

At Cal, Williams was the starting center on Cal’s Pac-8 Co-Championship Team in 1975. He was given Cal’s Outstanding Athlete Leadership Award. He was selected 1st Team All-Pac-8, All-West Coast Selection and Honorable Mention All-American. After his senior year at Cal he was selected to play in two of NCAA’s top senior all-star games: the Hula Bowl in Hawaii and the Japan Bowl in Tokyo, Japan.

Williams returned to Bakersfield after being signed by the Philadelphia Eagles and later waived. In 1978, he was selected to be a staff member of the Japan Bowl All-Star Football Game sponsored by Sports Nippon Newspaper in Tokyo, Japan. The Japan Bowl was a game played by American football players in their senior year of college. It is the only collegiate all-star football game ever played overseas.

In1980, he was promoted by the Japanese staff to become Game Director. His duties involved selecting, recruiting and organizing the coaches, players, cheerleaders and medical staff each year. Some of the coaches that Williams was successful in selecting and recruiting for the game were such notables as Bobby Bowden (Florida State), Steve Spurrier (Florida), Jimmy Johnson (Miami), Lou Holtz (Notre Dame), John Cooper (Ohio State), Lavelle Edwards (BYU), Don James (Washington), Johnny Majors (Tennessee), Dennis Erickson (Miami), Vince Dooley (Georgia), Dan Devine (Notre Dame), Lee Corso (Indiana), Dick Tomey (Arizona), Jackie Sherrill (Mississippi State), Mack Brown (Texas), R.C. Slocum (Texas A&M), and Larry Smith (Missouri) to name a few.

Williams was responsible for making the Japan Bowl the top ranked college all-star game from 1980 to 1993. He achieved this by securing the top senior players in the country each year.  During one five-year stretch, his roster included the Heisman Trophy winner for each of those years.  This feat has never been accomplished by any other all-star game before and since.  Past participants are a who’s who of NFL football greats: Joe Montana (Notre Dame), Steve Young (BYU), Vinny Testaverde (Miami), Randall Cunnigham (Las Vegas), Troy Aikman (UCLA), Doug Flutie (Boston College), Mark Burnell (Washington), Bo Jackson (Auburn), Reggie White (Tennessee), Tim Brown (Notre Dame), Chris Collinsworth (Florida), Lawrence Taylor (North Carolina), Kenny Easley (UCLA), Tony Dungy (Missouri), Tony Dorsett (Pittsburgh), Ricky Bell (USC), Mike Singletary (Baylor), and Mark May (Pittsburgh) to name a few.

From 1989 to 1992, Williams was also asked to organize the Japan Classic Basketball All-Star Tournament.  The tournament was the same concept as the Japan Bowl except for basketball.  Both all-star games, the Japan Bowl and the Japan Classic, were suspended in 1993 due to an economic downturn in Japan.  Both events were very popular. The games were routinely sold-out and were covered by ESPN.

Williams’ first love was always football and this led him to be a volunteer assistant football coach under his previous coach, Jack O’Brien, in the 1980’s. His coaching didn’t end there. In 2001, he became an assistant softball coach to his daughter, Corrie Williams-Gannaway (a four-year starter at Florida State in softball), who is now the all-time winning softball coach in North High School history.

Some of his fondest memories of North High School are playing for Coach Eliades and Coach Barton on North’s Championship Teams 1970 thru 1973.

Williams was elected to the Bob Elias Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Bakersfield College Football Hall of Fame in 2002. He is honored and very appreciative of being elected into the inaugural class of the 2013 North High School Hall of Fame. In 2012, Williams retired as a Captain from the Kern County Fire Department after 33 years of service.