Amandre Williams’ college career has come full circle.

In 2016, Williams — a 6-foot-2, 232-pound pass-rusher — redshirted his true freshman season, while Washington earned a Pac-12 title and a berth in the College Football Playoff.

Five years later, the senior and Maple Valley native will play for another championship.

Just not with Washington.

On Saturday, Williams — who left UW’s program in October 2018, after registering 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 15 career games — will represent Montana State (12-2) in the FCS national championship game against powerhouse North Dakota State (13-1), seeking the Bobcats’ first title since 1984.

In leaving home, he found a familiar fit.

“It was a collection of a couple different things, really,” Williams said this week, when asked why he transferred out of UW. “I just knew that my time at Washington was coming to an end, and I understood that. I saw that coming for a while.

“What brought me to Montana State was familiarity and continuity, really, between the programs and the cultures (with former UW defensive line coach Jeff Choate serving as head coach from 2016 to 2020). Coming here, it was a pretty seamless transition. We did a lot of the same stuff, and it’s been a lot of fun since. I haven’t looked back. I haven’t regretted anything.”

These Bobcats may seem familiar in more ways than one. Former Bellevue High School standout Isaiah Ifanse’s 1,539 rushing yards this season shattered a program record, and his 118.4 rushing yards per game ranks third in all of the FCS.

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As for Williams, he earned third-team All-Big-Sky honors as a first-year player in 2019 — compiling 65 tackles with 16 tackles for loss, five sacks and two interceptions. After the 2020 season was canceled, the former Tahoma High School standout added another 39 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks this fall.

“He’s got really good athleticism, to start,” said first-year Montana State head coach Brent Vigen. “I know he was a high school quarterback (throwing for 3,235 yards and 29 TDs as a senior at Tahoma in 2015). Then what he’s been able to do weight-wise, to add to his strength levels and his ability to play a six-technique — play inside at times in our third down package — I think he’s just got a really good combination of athleticism and he’s really developed strength-wise.”

But, perhaps more surprising, Williams has rapidly assumed a leadership role.

“I think from a transfer perspective, he’s a guy that’s bought in wholeheartedly to what’s going on here,” Vigen said. “That was evident. He was named a captain for the 2020 season, and that doesn’t typically happen with transfers. It takes a while. Usually the guys that are put in that position are guys that have come up through the system.

“So he’s bought in. He wants to be a coach, so I think he’s an excellent student of the game and a guy that this year we’ve used a lot of different ways. He’s a big-picture guy that understands the role he’s asked to do and has done a tremendous job this year.”

Fittingly, Williams’ college career will conclude on Saturday in Frisco, Texas — against an NDSU team that ended Montana State’s 2019 season with a decisive 42-14 win in the FCS semifinals. Williams said “the thing I most remember is walking off the field at the end of the game without a victory. That’s what I remember. It’s just a big, physical team. NDSU doesn’t change. They just want to run the ball. They want to be physical. They want to dominate everybody they play.”

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But these are not the same Bobcats.

Williams included.

“I’ve learned so much, being here,” he said. “Probably the biggest thing I’ve learned is that football isn’t everything. It sounds kind of weird to say, especially when you’re on a winning team. But there is life outside of football and you have priorities in your family life, in your social life, in your school. You have other things you need to worry about and you need to put those things on top.

“Once you take care of those, the football kind of comes along with it.”

Football isn’t everything, and the relationships Williams built at UW have persevered. The sixth-year senior maintains close bonds with former Huskies Ryan Bowman, Taylor Rapp, Race Porter, Sean McGrew, Brandon Wellington and Isaiah Gilchrist. He says they talk “all the time. I still have close friends there. I still have friends that have went on to play in the NFL and I still talk to. They went through some similar stuff to what we went through here with staff changes. So I’ve been just keeping up to date with them and asking how they’re doing.”

Williams’ college career, meanwhile, is not quite over.

And regardless of Saturday’s result, he’s already won.

“It’s hard to explain (the feeling),” Williams said. “It’s been a long, long, long journey, and I wouldn’t have wanted it to end any other way. I love this team and this team loves each other, and you can’t ask for more as a player.”