It’s not often you hear of someone fishing their way into college. Sawyer Williams of Paris is doing just that and hopes to further his education one cast at a time. He knows one doesn’t advance through the ranks of higher education by fishing alone, as hitting the books — not just setting the hooks — and keeping up the grades are required. In between the flashy tournament weigh-ins, warm sunny mornings, fancy boats and battles with hefty bass testing his tackle will be other tests, namely long thoughtprovoking ones far away from the water such as those in biology, English, math and chemistry classrooms. Yet on a cold day last week, his fishing efforts paid huge dividends and a dream came true for the Henry County youngster when he was awarded a scholarship to Bethel University. The stars were in line for Williams as he signed the papers to share membership on the prestigious fishing team and join some close friends who are already living the dream. “Sawyer will receive a $7,500 scholarship which will be applied to his tuition and join a successful program that has earned a lot of awards in a very competitive competition at this college level sport,” said coach Garry Mason as he welcomed the young angler on board. Williams will be joining other Henry County students who are already on the Bethel Wildcat fishing team, such as Gage Starks and Mercedes Ellis. His predecessors have raised the bar in collegiate fishing, having won regional and national championships. It’s a pretty tough row to hoe. And, while trying to figure out the fish and staying a step ahead of the competition, he’ll still have the demands of a tough academic curriculum. Yet the smiling youngster appears to be up to the task and honored to have been chosen. With the support of friends and family, Sawyer inked the deal last Sunday and seems ready to live up to expectations. IN HIS OWN WORDS Here’s a few words from the young angler as to his path to signing a college scholarship: “My freshman year I didn’t really know what I was getting into when my sister took me to the first meeting to join the high school fishing team. Dad was not too happy about me going to the meeting, but my sister took me anyway without permission. “A few days down the road my partner Gage Starks and I found out over the intercom at Grove School that we were the only two freshmen that made the team. Then our first journey began — looking all over the place for a boat captain. We finally found an amazing man named Forest “Frosty” Yonker that said that he was willing to put up with us for four years. “After we found our captain, time went on and we fished our 2017-18 season. By the end of the season we had fished seven tournaments and were one point away from making the cut to go to nationals. “Sophomore year, we fished about the same amount of tournaments and ended up being one pound away from making the cut for nationals again that year, but junior year is where my fishing career really took off. “Junior year, we wanted to make it to nationals so bad that we started fishing another tournament trail. We ended up fishing around fourteen tournaments and finishing tenth place in the state. We then advanced to the national and were happy just with that. “I am now a senior and finally got to pursue my dream of signing to Bethel University Wildcat fishing team about halfway through my high school senior season. This season is not over yet, but I can’t wait to see how it unfolds. I am proud to now be a Wildcat and I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for me at Bethel.” Williams also paid tribute to his high school fishing coach Candi Ellis and the experiences and support of his mom and dad, Kristi and Drew Williams. Whether hitting the lake or hitting the books, Williams seems to already know it takes friends at every stage of life to navigate the path ahead. Here’s hoping the sun shines bright and the winds are at the back of Sawyer Williams as he strikes out on a course which thousands of youngsters would love to pursue. When the school bell sounds, Williams may be in the library or out on the lake. Either way, fishing his way through school has a pretty nice ring to it.

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