Steven “Big Steve” Williams III and his younger brother, Jared, have always had a tight bond.
The two were born just a year-and-a-half apart, and rarely left each other’s side growing up. They attended the same schools, played together on youth sports teams and would often play one-on-one basketball against each other in the driveway of the family’s home in Laveen.
“He is my idol,” Jared said. “I’ve always looked up to him and he’s always been there for me when I needed him. I couldn’t ask for a better big brother.”
The two thought they would play football at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, where their father, Steven Williams II, was a defensive line coach from 2009-2015. But in 2016, Steven joined Norris Vaughan’s staff at Mountain Pointe, where his daughter, Arianna, thrived in the drama program.
Big Steve went with him as a freshman.
“Naturally, I wanted (Big Steve) to be where I was,” Steven said. “He fell in love with the engineering program and track coach. It was about more than just football for him.”
Steven returned to Chaparral in 2017 to reunite with his former college teammate, Conrad Hamilton, who became the Firebirds’ defensive coordinator. Again, Big Steve went with him. He also enrolled Jared, who was entering his freshman year.
The two went through summer workouts with the Chaparral football team. But while Jared flourished, Big Steve felt like something was missing.
“(Chaparral) has a ton of great kids and a great program,” Big Steve said. “But as school got started it was difficult because we live far away. It was kind of a lot with that, practice and school. I also started to think about the position I put myself in at Mountain Pointe and the robotics program.”
He spent the duration of his freshman year working in Mountain Pointe’s robotics program, building robots to compete in state-wide competitions. He missed everything about it and decided to transfer back to Mountain Pointe after the first week of school at Chaparral.
It was his second transfer in a matter of months, and he was forced to sit out his sophomore year from football and track. His appeal to the Arizona Interscholastic Association was denied.
“I just tried to help out as much as I could in practice, since I couldn’t play in games,” Big Steve said. “I knew I just had to keep working and prepare for my junior year. I was still able to compete in robotics though, which I was thankful for.”
Steven returned to Mountain Pointe in 2018 under new Pride head coach Rich Wellbrock, reuniting him with Big Steve.
Jared, however, remained at Chaparral after a standout season at running back. He played varsity last season as a sophomore while Big Steve started at right guard for Mountain Pointe.
On Oct. 12, 2018, Big Steve and Jared lined up against each other for the first time when the Pride faced Chaparral. They prayed with Steven before kickoff.
“It was special,” Big Steve said. “Especially with my dad there.”
With the brothers primarily playing offense, the chances of them meeting during a play were slim. Still, Steven told them to go the other way if they met face-to-face.
Jared, who is 5-foot-10, 203 pounds, was put at defensive line in an effort to spy former Mountain Pointe quarterback Nick Wallerstedt. He lined up near his 6-foot-1, 304-pound brother.
“I saw him coming at me and kind of braced to take the hit but he kind of backed off,” Jared said. “I still got trampled by the other linemen but when I got up he said, ‘I’m not going to hit you.’
“I remember looking toward their sideline and I saw my dad shaking his head.”
Mountain Pointe beat Chaparral 42-24, giving Big Steve bragging rights until they meet again this upcoming season. But this time, Steven and his wife, Vivian, will be watching from the stands as he decided to take the year off from coaching to watch both of his sons play.
Big Steve will move to center this season for the Pride, while Jared will start at running back for Chaparral. Both have picked up scholarship offers to play at the next level. Jared was offered by Northern Arizona University in April while Big Steve was offered by Minot State on July 16.
The two continue to cheer for each other on a daily basis. Jared even went as far as wearing Mountain Pointe gear while Big Steve competed in a big man competition at NAU in June.
“I appreciate the support from him,” Big Steve said. “He’s a great guy, a great brother. I know he has such a bright future ahead and I’m so proud of him.”
The two will continue to cheer for each other this season, just not as much when they go head-to-head in October.
But even then they plan to meet before the game and pray. They pray for each other’s safety and success. It’s more than football for them. It’s about continuing to grow the bond they’ve shared their entire lives.
“We’re so thankful for the type of relationship they have,” Steven said. “You want to see your kids at the same school and playing together. But given the circumstances, seeing them thrive is awesome.
“As a parent, it makes you smile.”