STEUBENVILLE - William Houst made a habit of creating havoc in opposing backfields during his playing days at Big Red. His habit didn't change much during his first year as a defensive end for Gavilan College, based in Gilroy, Calif.
Houst, a 2012 Big Red graduate, led the Rams in tackles with 80 (70 individual, 10 assists), all of California Junior College grid squads in tackles for losses (31) and the entire nation in quarterback sacks (9.5). Just for good measure, he forced three fumbles and broke up a couple of passes.
He recently was voted the Rams' MVP by his teammates and received all-region honors in the Northern California Football Association. He also earned All-Coast Conference first team recognition.
"And he has not reached his full potential yet," Gavilan coach Spencer Gilford recently said.
Gilford, who guided the Rams to a 3-7 mark in his second season, claims he knew the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Houst had potential "the first time" he watched him on film.
"He's a tremendous athlete with some special abilities," the coach pointed out.
Houst, who is back in town for the holidays, noted he was pleased with his first season at the collegiate level.
"I started off a little slow but I finished strong," he said. "The biggest difference between high school and college are the schemes and the size of the offensive linemen.
"They are so much bigger than high school. I relied on my quickness, speed and the motivation I had going into each game."
During his senior season at Big Red, Houst had 55 solo tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks. He helped lead Reno Saccoccia's 2011 club to a perfect 10-0 regular season. Big Red's run ended in the regional semifinals via a heart-breaking 24-22 loss to eventual Ohio Division III champion Youngstown Cardinal Mooney.
Houst, who admits the weather in California is "nice," plans to stay another year at Gavilan then look "to go to a Division I school" to continue his football career.
"My coach told me the scouts will start coming around during spring practice," he added. "I plan to continue working hard."
As far as his sophomore season goes, Houst, who earned a 2.5 GPA in the classroom, will be trying "to make all state and help my team improve on this year's record."
Houst, who wears number 52 for the Rams, pointed out playing for Big Red gave him "the toughness" he needed to play in college. It also gave him an edge in the playing physical department.
He is one of 10 out-of-state players on the Gavilan roster. Living in California has helped Houst "grow as a person and mature."
"I learned quickly what I had to do to live on my own and stand on my own two feet that far from home," he added.
Mike Haney, who coaches football and basketball at Big Red, played a key role in getting Houst a shot at Gavilan.
"He's basically the latest in a long line of Steubenville area players who have gone to school there," Haney, himself a Gavilan product, said. "I made a call to the coach, told him about William and everything seemed to work out."
Dwight Sims, a standout defensive end for Big Red during the late 1960s, may have been the first area athlete to perform for the Rams. Others who have attended Gavilan include Gregg Bahen, Dave Moitis and Mike Mavromatis.
"They liked him a lot," Haney continued. "They liked how he played hard, how he went hard at practice and went hard during a game.
"Everyone back here supported him and helped him out. It's a great fit and I hope he continues to perform academically."