He was a pillar for one of the best stretches of soccer Missouri State has put on the pitch.
On Feb. 21, Mike Williams will be put on the list as one of the best Missouri State University athletes when he is inducted into the university’s athletics hall of fame.
Mike Williams was a forward for the Missouri State soccer Bears (at the time Southwest Missouri State) from 1997 to 2000. He is tied for fourth place all-time in points, goals and game-winning goals in program history.
During Williams’ time at Missouri State, the Bears went 51-20-10. They made the NCAA tournament in 1997 and 1999, the first two appearances in program history.
His coaches remember Williams for his athleticism and work ethic more than the stats he put up.
“He was a fierce competitor — extremely athletic,” Bears head coach Jon Leamy, who has been head coach since 1992, said. “If the defense took their foot off the petal for just a second, he was all over them. We scored a lot on plays like that.”
Jeremey Alumbaugh, who was an assistant coach while Williams was at Missouri State and is now the general manager of the USL team Chattanooga FC, said Mike was a part of a group that helped change the identity of Missouri State, both the university as a whole and the soccer program itself.
“They really helped change the identity of SMS,” Alaumbaugh said of the late 90s teams. “Mike was an influential person in the success that we had. It’s great to see him get this award.”
During Williams’ freshman year, he was mentored by seniors Matt Caution and Mike Lamb, who are first and 10th in all-time program scoring, respectively.
“Severin Lwali was a co-forward of mine, and we had to room with Caution and Mike on the road,” Williams said. “Caution was a forward like me, and I got to observe him, which was such a big help in terms of learning how to handle myself. But on every road trip, I had to sleep on the floor. Matt would give me the comforter off the bed, but that was it. It was kind of the thing freshman had to go through.”
Williams played with Lwali often — both of them scored hat tricks in the 1999 season. Leamy, said Williams and Lwali formed one of the best forward duos he has coached.
The Bears went 17-1-3 in the 1999 season — not losing a game until a loss to the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Williams said the way his specific class — which includes goalie Mark Modersohn, who is second all-time for most wins in a season and a 2014 inductee to the MSU Hall of Fame — meshed was a big part of the 1999 season.
“I cannot emphasize enough how competitive they were,” Leamy said of his 1999 team. “Scheduling was rough. We only played four home games that year, and we won 17 games. Nothing came easy back then — we weren’t blessed with the facilities we have now.
“But by the end of it, Southwest Missouri State was a nationally recognized soccer program, and those guys made it happen.”
Williams said he remembers Leamy as someone who had high expectations but prepared the team for life after soccer.
“He would make sure we wouldn’t cut corners, and as a freshman it was so intimidating,” Williams said. “He put a lot of fear in you, but looking back now — I am very good friends with Jon Leamy. I can talk about it lightheartedly now, but at the time, we were all nervous around him. We wanted to show we were going to put everything we had on the line. In that way he prepared us so well for life.”
Williams said Missouri State soccer had a reputation as being one of the hardest soccer programs to play for in Missouri.
“I know a lot of guys that played college ball, and they heard stories about how Missouri State soccer was your life,” Williams said. “They have stories about skipping practice, driving themselves to games — it was a side-gig for them. It was a full-time career at Missouri State. I’m better for it, too.”
Williams is now a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley in St. Louis, but he is still involved in soccer. He and his wife Sara have three kids — Carter, Teddy and Carolina — and he coaches all three of their teams at the Scott Gallagher Soccer Club.
Leamy said he is happy to see another player he coached inducted into the hall of fame.
“A well deserved honor — that not only Mike is going to take some pride in, but his teammates too,” Leam said. “It gives him a chance to reconnect with a generation of Bears that were just so successful.”
Williams said he could not be more flattered to be selected.
“The second I got that call I looked through the past inductees to remember some of the amazing athletes I was around — Jackie Stiles, Ryan Howard,” Williams said. “I thought ‘this is a group I’m going to be a part of for the rest of my life.’”