St. Mary’s Williams does it all 

LOFTY LEG: St. Mary’s kicker Payne Williams has connected on field goals of 53 and 40 yards among his four makes this season on top of being a receiver and a defensive back.

BY DWAIN SPILLMAN JR. Journal Sports  

NATCHITOCHES – Breaking the stereotypical mold that football kickers are not as tough, or talented, as their gridiron teammates is just what St. Mary’s Joseph Payne Williams III has done. 

Williams, known simply as Payne to friends, family and teammates, has been on an unintentional, yet focused, path to shatter that mold. The Tiger multi-sport athlete didn’t start out to play positions other than kicker, but both physical and mental toughness sent him into a variety of important roles on the St. Mary’s football squad. 

“I decided in fifth grade that I wanted to play football,” Williams said about his path to the field. “But truthfully, I didn’t want to get hit. I played soccer before and decided I wanted to play football, too. Then, eventually I started playing other positions and just got used to getting hit.” 

 “It would be nice to just be able to kick in practice. But I will do whatever the team needs me to do. It’s also really nice when you know your teammates will still have your back when you get out there to kick, whether I make it or not.” 

The junior standout began to get media attention in 2022 as he converted a 53-yard field goal early in the season and then bounced a 54-yarder off of the crossbar on another attempt. But Williams has contributed in all aspects of the game and rarely sees the bench. 

He has sent 44 of 46 PAT attempts through the uprights while hitting 4 of 9 field goals, one from 40+ yards to go with the 53-yarder. In punting duties, Williams has recorded a 30.4 yard per kick average on 15 attempts while sending 37 of 63 kickoffs through the endzone.  

When he’s not flashing his cannon leg by kicking the ball, he’s catching it. 

He has 23 receptions for 311 yards and one touchdown while tallying 15.5 tackles (14 solo) with one interception and a fumble recovery as a defensive back.  

“He is what you think of when you say student athlete,” said Tiger head coach Aaron York. “On the field, off the field, and in the classroom, he works very hard and he excels. But on the field, we have full confidence when we send him out to kick field goals. He also has the ability to flip the field and put our opponents in more challenging starting positions on offense with his ability in punts and kickoffs. A lot of teams don’t have that ability. When you can put your defense in a much better position on every series, it really helps our game plan in a major way. We are just lucky to have a player who can do that for us.” 

Kicker is where any post-high school football aspirations lie, and York said Williams could reach that goal. 

“He’s very good without any doubt. If he didn’t have to play multiple positions and just kick for us, it would be very interesting to speculate on just how good he could be at this time in high school.” 

Developing into one of the most dependable high school kickers in north Louisiana started from humble beginnings.  

Payne and family members reflected on the early days when he began booting pigskins over portable buildings, baseball backstops and the netting at the East Natchitoches tennis courts before transitioning to the practice field at Northwestern State University.  

Since those fledging days, Williams has participated in major camps at LSU and Alabama while also gaining valuable experience at the Kohl’s National Kicking Camp.  

Williams also plays basketball and baseball while his extracurricular activities include Beta Club and Future Business Leaders of America (advancing to state level competition during the last two school years).  

Of special note, Payne also raises money for children’s cancer research with each successful field goal he makes through the “Kick It” campaign, which is an extension of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. 

Williams is drawing interest from smaller colleges, and he’s taking a “wait and see” attitude as he weighs his athletics aspirations with his educational goals. Most Division I college programs chase kickers late in the recruiting process, and the majority of kickers on college football rosters begin as walk-ons. 

Colleges should find their way to East Natchitoches to check out a kicker whom many have described as the “calm in the storm.”

CREDIT: Elizabeth Yopp/St. Mary’s Media Relations