1 of 53
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham greets quarterback Troy Williams (3) during a ceremony for seniors before the game against the Colorado Buffaloes at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017.
I've had a long college career, and no, it really didn't go as expected, but I'm glad to go out with a win here on senior night. —Troy Williams

SALT LAKE CITY — Troy Williams did not enjoy the senior season he expected.

But because he set his personal disappointment aside to be the leader his team needed, the quarterback enjoyed one final triumph in his final appearance at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

“He is one of the best leaders I’ve seen,” said senior wide receiver Darren Carrington II after Utah defeated Colorado 34-13 to ensure an invitation to a bowl game for the Utes. “Just to go through everything he’s gone through, and I mean, his play showed today. Whenever your number is called, you’ve got to step up and play. Being a captain, he’s a professional. So with Troy, it doesn’t matter what’s going on, whenever his number is called, you know you’re going to get the best out of him, so you gotta come to play.”

Williams started his final collegiate season by being voted a team captain for the second straight year. Just a few days later, however, he learned that he’d lost the starting quarterback job to sophomore Tyler Huntley.

He was called on when Huntley was injured in the Arizona game, and he earned the win. Then he lost two consecutive heartbreakingly close games to Stanford and USC before Huntley returned and resumed the starting role.

Friday after practice, Williams learned that he’d be starting on senior night.

“I found out yesterday after practice,” he said. “Coach (Troy) Taylor came up to me and told me I was going to get to start. Tyler was a little banged up. So I just tried to go in and (lead) my team to a victory.”

Williams did that as the offense enjoyed one of its best outings of the season, led by a brutal ground game. Running back Zack Moss finished with 196 yards and two touchdowns, while Williams added 47 rushing and two touchdowns to his 181 yards passing.

“It feels good,” he said of getting the start and helping the team to a win. “I’ve had a long college career, and no, it really didn’t go as expected, but I’m glad to go out with a win here on senior night.”

His fellow senior captains were thrilled not just seeing Williams start but seeing him lead the Utes to such a decisive victory.

“I’m happy for him,” said offensive lineman and captain Salesi “Leka” Uhatafe. “I was waiting for him to show out like this. There wasn’t a better night for him to do it than on senior night.” Defensive lineman Filipo Mokofisi relished the type of ending they were able to provide each other and the fans.

“He’s quiet,” Mokofisi said of Williams. “He just leads through example; he’s a very good person. I’m so happy for him. It’s so awesome to end on such a great note.”

Leading from the sideline is a difficult job for anyone, but especially for Williams, who prefers to lead through his actions.

“It’s for sure a different point of view,” Williams said. “You know, just not being able to go out and be an example. So you have to lead through practice and just vocally. … I like to lead by example on the field, you know, show everybody that I’m ready to go.”

That wasn’t an option this season, so Williams not only set aside his personal disappointment, but he also found new ways to lead.

“It’s been a learning curve in learning how to lead from the sideline,” he said. “Just helping Snoop (Huntley) on the sideline, whatever he needs, and just keeping everybody upbeat when things are going down. I feel like it’s helped me a lot just be professional.”

In his final game at Rice-Eccles, he said he didn’t ruminate on the fact that if they lost that their season ended, while if they won they earned a trip to a bowl game.

“My family was here, and I just wanted to put on a good performance for them,” Williams said. “I wanted to make them proud at the end of the day, regardless of what I’ve been though. I’m blessed to be alive, just to be here going to school and playing football.”