Rodrick Williams recalls his grandfather once owning a Pontiac GTO and hearing stories about it from his father. Also influential was the first The Fast and the Furious movie (2001), which was about nighttime street racing, that he watched as a youngster.
“I wasn’t old enough to get a car yet,” said Williams in an MSR interview. “I started looking at cars after that.”
When he’s not driving through holes for yards on the gridiron, the Gopher senior running back is driving his souped-up Chevy off the field. His parents gave him a 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt, a “subcompact” car once produced by General Motors (2004-10), “at the end of my sophomore year,” said Williams.
This summer, Williams took on a DIY project. “You do your research and take care of it,” he said of his search for a new engine. “I blew the motor three times. Cobalts aren’t a hot item,” but he eventually “found a junkyard 2.4 [liter engine] that had 60,000 miles on it, and for 300 bucks.”
He spent another $50 on a used turbo “and found a rebuild kit on line for $100,” said the senior, who along with two friends installed the engine. “I rebuilt that turbo and it runs perfectly,” he said proudly.
This reporter saw the vehicle recently as Williams breezed out of the Bierman parking lot heading north on 15th Avenue SE. “It’s definitely a stress reliever,” admitted Williams of working on his car.
“You come home and start doing little things on the car to get it right,” but he admitted that sometimes frustration sets in. He remembers driving after he replaced the radiator and “the clips [holding it in place] broke and [it] was gone.” He and a buddy put in a new one.
Williams now has DIY bragging rights. “You know it is going to pay off and be everything you wanted it to be. I made sure I did every little thing I could, making sure I replaced everything that I could possibly replace.
“It definitely has been an experience. Sometimes it’s hard to figure it out on your own. But you got all these [car] forums and Facebook. They have a “Cobalt SS gang” page on Facebook. You go and ask questions [on] whatever you can learn and need to learn. I had the help of my friends, too.”
As with any project, sometimes a mishap occurs: “I hurt my finger a couple of times, chipped my tooth when the hood came down. It was all worth it,” said Williams.
Finally, Williams got his car just the way he wants it — for now.
“To someone who doesn’t like cars, they won’t understand it. There’s always something new or different you can do to the car,” said the 21 year old.
Senior Daly Santana last weekend collected her second consecutive MVP honors after 34 total kills in three victories in the Charleston Classic.
The Gophers (8-2) defeated Bryant University, San Houston State, and College of Charleston in three-set matches. Santana and sophomore Dalianiz Rosado each had a team-high 11 digs against host Charleston.
Minnesota opens Big Ten play this week at Ohio State Sept. 23, then at Penn State Sept. 26.
Read more on Santana in this week’s “Sports Odds and Ends.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.