It's a Family Thing
By Suzy Frisch, Photo by Steve Neidorf
Left to right: Brian, Rochele, Danielle, and Maxx Williams, and Ron Goetz Jr.
When Maxx Williams gets up early for football practice, or when he’s giving it his all at two-a-day practices, he thinks about his grandfather, father, and uncle going through the same experiences as Gophers. His grandfather, Ron Goetz Sr., was a Gopher for one year. His dad Brian was a Gopher from 1984 to 1988 before being drafted in the first round by the New York Giants, helping the team clinch a Super Bowl victory in 1990. His uncle, Ron Goetz Jr., played for the Gophers in the late 1980s. “That’s a big reason I came here—because my family played here and I’m keeping the memories going,” says Williams, a red-shirt sophomore tight end. “It’s cool to think they did all the same things I’m doing, too.”
But Williams’s Gopher roots go beyond football. His mother, Rochele Williams (B.A. ’88), was a standout volleyball player who earned the prestigious Big Ten Medal of Honor in 1988 for achievement in academics and sports.
For Rochele, who grew up in Waconia, Minnesota, there was nowhere else she’d rather go than the U, even though other schools came calling. Getting an excellent education and playing for the hometown team in front of family and friends meant a great deal to her. “Being an athlete has its ups and downs, but that’s where you learn to be a better student and learn that everything is not going to go right. You keep going and fight hard,” she says. “When you love a sport like that, to play at that level is such a thrill.”
Brian grew up in Pittsburgh, the son of a Notre Dame All-Star quarterback, and he considered several other schools before visiting Minnesota. He fell in love with campus and the coaching staff, prompting him to cancel the rest of his recruiting trips. Brian studied child psychology and mainly played center at the U.
“Playing here was one of the best experiences of my life. I made some lifelong friends, and by playing for Minnesota and in the Big Ten I got to play in the NFL,” Brian says. “I owe that all to the coaching staff at Minnesota.”
This fall, Maxx’s sister Danielle will join him on campus as a graduate student. The two are very close and will live together while she pursues a master’s degree in kinesiology and Maxx works on his bachelor’s in communications studies.
Rochele and Brian travel to Maxx’s away games and the family takes a busload of family and friends to each home game. “It’s my hometown and my home state, and representing the Gophers at the University is a cool thing for me,” says Maxx, who intends to pursue the NFL and ultimately a career in sports media. “It’s been awesome—everything I dreamed about.” —S.F.