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Friday, September 3, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 10

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Junior college transfer brings skills, winning attitude to '99 Cougars

By Tom Carpenter
Daily Cougar Staff

When the Cougar Football coaching staff searches the country for talented athletes, it looks for size, speed and desire. 

When head coach Kim Helton found William Pettis playing defensive back for the NJCAA's Middle Georgia, he got all that -- plus attitude.

"He's certainly one of the best athletes on this team," Helton said. "We hold him in very high esteem. He's one of the best athletes we've signed.

"He's a very intense young man, and he intends to excel in football," he said. "He takes the game very seriously. He's a very quiet guy, a very Christian guy and a very competitive football player."

Pettis, a 6-1, 181-pound junior from Hinesville, Ga., brings to UH the same no-nonsense attitude he played with when he helped the Middle Georgia's defense lead the NJCAA as the top-ranked rushing defense and the best defense overall in 1998.

Pettis is what Cougar teams from the past have been missing.

Not only is he an outstanding defensive back ready to step in and shore up the leaky pass defense that plagued last year's team, but his steely eyed resolve to be the best player he can be infects the entire football team.

"We're a different football team this year," Pettis said. "Last year, no one showed up to summer workouts. This year, practically the whole team showed up. We're serious about winning now."

He firmly believes in the new defense installed by new defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas and thrives under the tutelage of cornerback coach Andrew Swasey.

"We're going to shut a lot of people down," Pettis said. "Last year, they had a problem with the cornerbacks getting beat deep on big plays, but coach Swasey has taught us all a lot. We're going to shut down the deep receivers this year."

Pettis' confidence comes from the fact that he played on a junior college team that finished 11-1 and won the Mineral Water Bowl over fifth-ranked Northwest Mississippi last year.

Pettis doesn't lack confidence, but his is not the arrogant rhetoric of a wannabe champion.

He's completely businesslike in his approach to football, and his personal life reflects this maturity.

Too often we forget that under those shoulder pads and helmets are young men who face the same issues and problems that confront all of us as we strive to enhance our futures with a college education. Playing a college sport increases the pressure on a student to excel in the classroom, but Pettis is a prime example of the type of student athletes who are attracted to UH.

"I'm majoring in sociology with a minor in sports administration," Pettis said. "Whether I make it to the pros or not doesn't matter. I promised my mother I'd finish college and get my degree."

Pettis has the size and skills to make the leap to professional football, and if he's drafted by the NFL, he'll be happy to do so and finish his college education after a professional career.

If his name doesn't come up in the draft, he intends to finish his education here at UH.

"Coach Helton has been great to me," he said. "He's like a father away from home. Everything is going real smooth for me right now."

Pettis' move to Houston was guided by nothing less than divine intervention. Heeding the counsel of an elder at his church who believed "God has a plan for him in Houston," Pettis decided he wanted to be a part of the UH experience.

Campus life at the University is a big change compared to the small Georgia town Pettis hails from, but he said he's handling it.

"It's a big change for me," he said, "but I like it here, and I'm enjoying being a part of this campus."

In a revealing statement about his attitude on the football field, Pettis said he doesn't want to go to the Liberty Bowl, where the Conference USA champion plays.

"I want to play the big boys -- a bowl game in Florida, or the Sugar Bowl," he said.

"I want everyone to come to the game Saturday and watch us stomp Rice. When Saturday night is over, we'll be looking at Alabama. I'm really looking forward to that, because it's close to home and my family will be there to watch me play."

William Pettis is a large contributor to the new attitude that permeates this year's Cougar team. His mindset is a refreshing change from the acceptance of lackadaisical effort on the field.
 

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