Utah State QB Levi Williams led his team to a bowl berth. Next up? Navy SEAL training

From an outside perspective, Utah State’s dramatic, double-overtime, bowl-clinching 44-41 win over New Mexico on Friday may have looked like the beginning of quarterback Levi Williams’ comeback story.

The third-string QB broke out with 351 all-purpose yards and five total touchdowns in his first start since 2021, and he still has one year of college eligibility left.

But the dynamic performance that punched the Aggies’ ticket to bowl season is more like a fairytale ending to the closing chapter of his football book because Williams intends to forgo his final year of college eligibility to pursue a dream of becoming a Navy SEAL. Williams will complete his Master of Business Administration from USU’s business school in December.

“It’s always been in my heart my entire life. My mom was Army. My grandparents were Army and Navy,” he said. “People in the military are always what I want to emulate because they’re some of the best people, best teams on the planet.”

The 22-year-old came to the decision about two years ago when a Navy chaplain spoke at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting Williams attended. Williams was deciding between the Navy and the Army Special Forces when the chaplain connected him with a former SEAL who he now trains alongside and looks to as a mentor.


Depending on the bowl, Williams says he plans to play one more game for Utah State. (Photo: Sam Wasson / Getty Images)

It’s an unconventional path for an athlete who was rated a three-star prospect coming out of high school and still has the skills to find success on the football field, but Utah State coach Blake Anderson says it’s a clear fit for Williams.

“The guy is just unique in every sense. I think his true sense of selflessness and fight for the guy next to him is something that’s tangible and real. You can see it,” Anderson said. “His capacity for work and to do tough things and to fight through things that are hard, difficult and painful is just something that, in our society today, is hard to see. I think he’ll do an amazing job. I can’t imagine having anybody better suited for what he’s wanting to do. I’m super proud of the path he’s chosen.” 

Before Friday, Williams was buried on the depth chart and almost exclusively playing on special teams. A transfer from Wyoming, Williams became the first QB to rush for 200 yards and four touchdowns in a bowl while leading the Cowboys to a win in the 2021 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. But with Utah State, he entered the season backing up Cooper Legas and McCae Hillstead.

When both QBs went down due to injury, Williams stepped in, and the Aggies adjusted their offense to better suit his big arm strength and ability to make plays with his feet. Though Anderson said Williams previously struggled with consistency in practices this season, he approached the starting role with calm confidence. Even a car accident the Tuesday before the game couldn’t shake his nerves. Another driver pulled out in front of Williams on the highway and he totaled his car, he said, but he walked away without a scratch and took it as an omen.

“I was telling my head coach, ‘You know what? I think this is a sign God really wants me to play in this game, because if not, it could’ve been a lot worse,’” he said. 

Williams carried that swagger into the game and shared it with his teammates.

“When New Mexico decided to kick a field goal in the second overtime, I looked at everybody on the sidelines and said, ‘All right, we’re gonna go win this game. That was a big mistake on their part.’”

He went on to seal the victory with a 13-yard touchdown run on a play that began with a dropped snap.

Depending on the bowl game the Aggies get, Williams says he plans to play. The Athletic predicts Utah State will face Georgia State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 23, which may mean Williams could come full circle to the site of his previous record-breaking performance. Either way, he’ll be content with however his college career ends.

“I feel like I’m playing with house money at this point,” he said. “So I’m just having as much fun as I can and being the best teammate that I can.”

Required reading

(Photo: Sam Wasson / Getty)