Dominique Williams wasn’t much different than many teenagers as his high school graduation inched closer.
Williams wanted to explore the world. He certainly wanted to see more of America than his little corner in Lafayette, La., and Williams figured his athletic skills would eventually help open those doors.
So, naturally, when Williams finally packed his bags for college he bid farewell to his family and headed to…the University of Louisiana Lafayette, just down the road.
As Williams begins wrapping up his collegiate career, much has changed. Now a standout thrower for the Colorado track and field program, Williams probably isn’t the Buffaloes athlete most favored to win a league title this weekend at the Pac-12 Championships hosted by the University of Oregon. Yet he will have left a lasting impact on the Buffs’ record book despite his relatively short tenure at CU.
“Planning to get out of Louisiana was my plan coming out of high school,” Williams said. “I said ‘I’m not going to ULL. I’m not going to LSU. I’m getting out of Louisiana.’ And then, financially, what made the best sense to stay in Louisiana. So I stayed there my four years, and then I’m getting out, one way or another.
“Luckily I redshirted my outdoor season my freshman year, so I had a year. I was ready to get out. I love my hometown. I miss it all the time. It was just about that time.”
Williams enjoyed a decorated career at his hometown school, setting a school record in the hammer throw and, in 2019, becoming just the fifth Ragin’ Cajuns athlete to win a conference championship in the event. Yet when the start of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the following year, eliminating the 2020 outdoor season, and it soon became a reality that Williams would have his redshirt year plus the NCAA-mandated extra year of eligibility given due to the pandemic, Williams opted to put his name in the transfer portal.
Unlike the modern football or basketball transfers that might have NIL offers to sort through while making that sort of decision, Williams had to be much more proactive. He estimates he sent emails to 20 to 30 Power 5 coaches in hopes of finding a new landing spot. One of the more encouraging responses Williams received was from CU assistant Casey Malone, the Buffs’ throws coach.
Once the pair connected on the phone, Williams finally found his path out of Louisiana.
“We had a phone conversation that was supposed to last about 30 minutes and it lasted about three hours. I said, ‘Man, I really like this guy,’” Williams said. “I started learning more about Colorado, about Boulder, and it’s a really cool place. I decided to take myself here and try to experience Colorado life.”
Williams, who begins his portion of the Pac-12 finals on Saturday afternoon, has blossomed in Boulder. This season he has posted two of the top four outdoor hammer marks in program history, posting what at the time was the No. 3 mark all-time at CU with a throw of 205 feet, five inches at the season-opening Jerry Quiller Classic in March. Williams pushed that mark down the No. 4 all-time when he tossed a 211-3 at the CU Invitational last month, falling short of the program record by 11 inches.
That 211-3 counts as the No. 8 mark this outdoor season in the Pac-12 going into the league championships.
“It’s been amazing,” Williams said. “My first year was a little rough coming out of COVID, and all the mental and physical things I had to deal with. But this year has really been fun and I’ve been really involved in Casey’s program. I’ve gotten so close to that school record and we’ve still got a few more chances to do it. That’s the goal this year. I’m really proud of everything I’ve done, especially moving here and working with Casey.
“Boulder and the CU community has really shown me what it means to be in such an accepting and loving place. I really love my hometown. But there’s just some political and social things that are very different here that appeal to me — LBGTQ things, human rights things, racial things. Boulder has been such an awesome place for that.”