FORT WORTH, Texas -- Jordan Williams waited a long time to make her first NCAA championships appearance. After spending four years competing at Arizona, she transferred to UCLA to attend grad school. There was just one issue -- she would have to clear it with her dad, a former Southern California football player.
“My dad, as much as he jokes about it, he’s extremely happy for me,” Williams said. “I mean, who wouldn’t want their daughter to go to UCLA and compete for their gymnastics team? It’s such a legacy there. So, he was really happy for me.”
It was well known amongst the team that her father, Rod Williams, would wear a USC T-shirt underneath a UCLA shirt at meets. However, he fully supported his daughter’s decision.“To have her finish up her career at UCLA has just been a blessing for us.,” Rod Williams said. “I always split my loyalties, and I’m a Trojan for life as they say, but obviously right now, for this moment in time I’m all UCLA."
Williams’ dad, along with her mom, Trina, and best friend and Arizona roommate Maddie Lozano made the trip to Fort Worth to watch her compete in her final collegiate meet. UCLA did not qualify for the Super Six finals, but Williams matched a career high with a 9.90 on vault and was named Second Team All-American on the event, just missing qualifying for the Individual event finals.
“It was a little disappointing but my ultimate goal individually was -- I’ve never even been to nationals before so this is my first time here and just to be able to go out there on podium in such a huge arena, in such a big setting and compete was huge for me," Jordan said. "And the fact that I got Second Team All-American and almost made [event] finals is something beyond what I ever dreamed of.
“This sport has been part of my life since as long as I can remember and to have my family and my best friend there to support me was an amazing feeling to end my career.”
The experience of being a college athlete can be a difficult one, and having a parent that has been through it was extremely helpful for Jordan.
“He went through it so he knows exactly what I was going through," she said, "and when I was having a slump or was down -- it’s hard, I mean it’s hard to keep up with school and gym. He was extremely helpful to kind of guide me and keep me motivated and keep pushing and it’s always worth it in the end.”
“We had lots of conversations where the crying moments, ‘Dad is this really worth it?’ ” Rod said. “I think you know being an athlete is about that stick-to-itiveness and it really teaches you to kind of dig deep and deal with adversity and the challenges in life because it’s not an easy road to success and I think that is what I always want my kids to understand about you can get to where you want, but it’s going to take the effort.”
Williams has another year of school and then plans to apply to medical school and go into plastic surgery. But this weekend has been about coming to terms with the end of her gymnastics career.
“It’s so weird it hasn’t hit me,” she said. “On the ride home it will hit me. Right now, it’s just, it’s so surreal. I’m still here and I get to be around gymnastics, but when we go back it’s just school and what am I going to do with all my free time?”
The good news -- Rod Williams now owns two UCLA shirts.
“He doesn’t have an excuse any more,” Jordan said.