Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites Franchise Sports Media

WWJD #25: Charles Williams: UNLV Rides the Chuck Wagon Again in 2020


UNLV running back Charles Williams is poised to have a huge senior campaign. It could be a record breaking season for the “Chuck Wagon” and new head football coach Marcus Arroyo.


Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites Franchise Sports Media

Chuck Williams has a shot at breaking the Rebels All-Time rushing record. He needs 1,289 rushing yards to become the UNLV career rushing leader. Last season Williams ran for 1,257 and will enter the 2020 season with 2,245 yards, which is 7th in school history. He also missed a game and a half in 2019 after sustaining a leg injury, but Williams toughed it out and still led the Mountain West Conference in rushing when the regular season ended.

Williams was named to the official Doak Walker Award Watch List, which was released Wednesday morning. The award is presented annually to the nation’s top college running back. He is just the fourth UNLV player to have won a conference regular-season rushing title, finishing 2019 the season with 1,257 yards and 11 touchdowns. A unanimous choice for 2020 preseason first-team All-Mountain West by various publications, Williams heads into his senior season needing 555 yards to become just the fourth Rebel to reach 3,000 yards on the ground.


Things were not always peaches and cream for Williams, who was extremely under-recruited coming out of Bullard High School in Fresno, California.


Photo Credit: The Fresno Bee

Fresno State only had minimal interest in Williams, and they wanted to convert him to receiver or cornerback, something Williams didn’t want to do. Washington State also showed interest, but then UNLV head coach Tony Sanchez and Jamie Christian, the Rebels former running back coach, stayed persistent and landed him.

When Williams came to UNLV, the running back room was a crowded place.

Not only was sophomore Lexington Thomas in the building, so was senior David Greene, junior Evan Owens, sophomore Xzaviar Campbell, and junior Lantz Worthington. Williams had to prove to the coaching staff that he deserved to play.


But Williams is Bullard Strong. That’s a saying well known not only in Fresno but also with college coaches recruiting players from Bullard High School. The Knights’ players are well known for their work ethic, toughness, and ability to excel on the field and in the classroom. Those traits have been passed down from generation to generation of Bullard Knights football players and still resonate in their program.

First, it was the way we carried ourselves in the weight room and conditioning,” Williams told me last summer. “Coach Arax had us doing all the top tier lifts. Watching a lot of film my junior year helped me into my senior year. Coach Arax was always being hard on me, but it made me coachable, to be honest. He made sure I was always on top of my game. Overall, Coach Arax and Coach Fares were giving me the blueprints to football at the college level.”

He also said that his running back coach at Bullard played a massive role in his development. “My running back coach, Coach Harm, set me up with tons of drills every day of the week that helped elevate my game to be ready for the college game.”


There was no “Freshman moment” for Williams, who made an impact early on for UNLV.


Williams earned his first letter as a Rebel by playing in all 12 games as a freshman. He started four of the last five games and led the Rebels with 763 net rushing yards, which shattered James Wofford’s UNLV freshman record of 624 yards set in 1997 (the record was broken again in 2017 by quarterback Armani Rogers). The total of 763 yards ranked ninth in the nation among all freshmen and 25th among all players who have ever worn the Scarlet & Gray.


Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites – Franchise Sports Media

Williams also caught four passes for eight yards. He led the team in kickoff returns with 24 attempts for 422 yards for an average of 17.6, which ranked 10th in the Mountain West. Williams ranked 113th in the FBS with 99.4 all-purpose yards per game.

Williams made his Rebels debut by rushing for 96 yards on just 12 carries in a victory over Jackson State on Sept. 1st.

After the first game against Jackson State, I knew I could make an impact,” Williams told me. “Coach Christian was always letting me know ‘be ready young Chuck,’ and Coach Sanchez was always letting me know there is a reason why he didn’t redshirt me.”

Williams also picked up his first UNLV touchdown in that game when he scampered 17 yards into the end zone vs. Jackson St. He scored another touchdown at Central Michigan on Sept. 17th when he recovered a blocked punt in the end zone (which tied the game at seven apiece). Williams posted a season-high 153 yards on just 18 carries, including a five-yard touchdown, in a win over hometown school Fresno State on Oct. 1st.

He picked up his second 100-yard game at San Jose State when he finished with 141 on a season-high 22 carries, and in that game against the Spartans, he took a handoff and raced 75 yards into the end zone.


Going into his sophomore season Williams was expected to break out, but instead, he got injured and missed all but a half of football.


UNLV fans remember the Howard University game to kick off the 2017 season, and many probably won’t ever forget it. In that game, Williams, who started, rushed for 93 yards on just 12 carries and a touchdown. But he injured his ankle and had to have surgery, which caused him to miss the rest of the season. That year Lex Thomas broke out rushing for over 1,300 yards, which had Williams even more determined to get his starting position back.

He told me before the start of fall camp, “I’m coming for my starting spot and getting back to where I left off from last year’s fall camp.” While that didn’t happen, Thomas started most of the games and ended his senior season with over 1,000 yards, Williams still finished third on the team with 332 net yards rushing and was also named 2018 Academic All-Mountain West for the second straight year.


Entering his junior year, Williams was the unquestioned starter and leader of the running back room.


Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites – Franchise Sports Media

I’ll never forget when I got a phone call asking me, “Hey, has Chuck told you he is transferring or thinking of transferring?” I said he hadn’t mentioned it to me, and I don’t think it was an option. I asked who said that he was thinking about it? The person told me on the other end of the phone that it was a reporter locally, and they (UNLV) weren’t worried that he might leave but wanted to know if I had heard anything.

Ironically, a week or two later, I ran into Williams at Dog House Bar and Grill, a popular restaurant in Fresno when I was there visiting my son and girlfriend.

I asked him about it, he laughed and said, “Why would I do that? I’m the starter, I love UNLV and the staff, that thought never crossed my mind.” We spoke for a while, his family, and mine, and he expressed how excited he was for the upcoming (2019) season.


I was with UNLV Football Sports Information Director Mark Wallington and KLAS CBS 8 Sportscaster Jon Tritsch at practice watching and commenting on the team when Jon said, “Chuck needs a cool nickname!” We all agreed, and before practice ended, Jon came over to Mark and me and said, “He is the Chuck Wagon!”


Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites Franchise Sports Media

Now I have known Williams since he set foot on the UNLV campus. I know his family and his story better than most. I was there with him and his family after games when he was frustrated, and after big games when he was overjoyed. But I have never seen a player more focused and on a mission than Williams entering last season. He assumed his leadership role and took it seriously.

Williams’ junior season had its share of ups and downs. While the team didn’t achieve the success they had hoped for, overall, Williams’ performance was nothing short of outstanding.


Williams told me, “Last year was off to a good start. We ran into a bump in the road and kept pushing each week. I always finish what I started, and the team always was fighting to get a win, and it just came down to the little things. We lost some close games that could have easily had us 8-4 or 9-3. We just gotta be more professional, and I promise you will see better results this year from us.”

The Chuck Wagon once again had his biggest games against his hometown team Fresno State (113 yards) and a school that isn’t that far from FresnoSan Jose State (186 yards and three touchdowns). But Williams also a big game against an excellent and well-coached Power-5 school as well. Against Northwestern on national T.V., Williams ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns.


Now Williams is on the verge of what could be a very special senior season.


Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites Franchise Sports Media

The college football writers have taken notice, as have NFL scouts. I spoke to a few NFL player personnel people that believe Williams will end the 10-year drought for UNLV not having a player drafted into the NFL (when offensive guard Joe Hawley was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 2010).

With Williams being named to the Doak Walker Award watch list and with new UNLV head football coach Marcus Arroyo making sure the Rebels offense becomes more potent, “The Chuck Wagon” is primed to have a huge year. UNLV returns one of the best offensive lines in the Mountain West, to go along with weapons on the outside, all they need is steady quarterback play. If Justin Rogers or Kenyon Oblad can provide that, UNLV could be a sleeper team, and Williams, a sleeper player, to bring home some hardware this postseason.


If there is a season, I’m going to be ready, and if there’s not, that’s fine. Just gonna move the same way I been moving and stay ready,” Williams told me.


When hardwork meets talent, the possibilities are limitless. Williams is the personification of that. A person that gets it done in the class room, the weight room, the community, the locker room, and on the field. I wouldn’t bet against Williams, in fact, in this case I would go “All In” on “The Chuck Wagon.”



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-Joe Arrigo – Franchise Sports Media

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