Bio

DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Mr. Mike has been the glue for XCP athletics

The world health scare that affects us all has rendered the Xavier Prep campus to sit in an eerie silence these days.

There are no students – they are all at home, studying and interacting remotely via computers and other electronic devices.

One of the main casualties has been athletics. No games or practices for the rest of the school year. All of the facilities have been cleaned and disinfected by XCP’s great maintenance staff.

But if you listen very closely and use your imagination, you might just hear voices on the walkie-talkie radios crackling in the breeze.

For nearly four decades at Xavier, one of the familiar voices and an even more familiar face belongs to Mike Williams, the school’s security guru for just about anything you could name, with a particular emphasis on sports.

He will be retiring at the end of June. He is in a similar situation as the graduating seniors, having their last few months here unfortunately cut short.

But at least we can sit back and remember with a smile the job done by the man affectionately referred to as “Mr. Mike’’ by XCP Vice-Principal and Athletic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor.
Xavier Prep security man deluxe Mike Williams (Photo by Don Ketchum).
During the day, Mike’s is the first face you see when you drive through the main gate on Seventh Street. He exits the small guard shack, recognizes faculty and staff and waves them through. Those he doesn’t know must stop and state their reason for coming in. He gives their vehicle the once-over, scribbles their license plate on a sheet that is attached to his clipboard and tells them where to park.

“He is the face of Xavier. Parents, students, staff, everyone knows Mr. Mike,’’ Winsor said. “He also is the face of Xavier athletics. He leads the teams and referees to their locker rooms (in the Activity Center). He has been invaluable for us. And his primary concern is the safety of our girls.’’

Williams also assists with non-athletic events, and a few years ago chronicled some student artwork with photographs in the Stark Gallery in the hopes of putting together a scrapbook.

At athletic events, he closely watches to make sure no one brings anything other than water into the gym.

And when there are games at Petznick Field, he shows where opposing team buses are to park, hands out rosters, chases down a few foul balls (softball) and keeps an eye out for something that he might consider to be irregular.

I probably fell into that irregular category back in the days when I covered sports for The Arizona Republic and The Phoenix Gazette and the Arizona Interscholastic Association. Whenever I would report on an event at Xavier, the first few times, I was a stranger. But he would greet me at the door and often set up a chair near the scorer’s table. The respect he showed me was one of the reasons why I came to Xavier and why I have been here for six years.

Williams attended St. Francis Elementary in Phoenix as well as neighboring Brophy Prep before going on to the University of Arizona and later Grand Canyon University.

He was a volunteer baseball coach at Brophy for a few years, then volunteered as a coach at Xavier before Sr. Lynn brought him on full-time in the mid-1980s.

“I think he really loves Xavier. If he didn’t, he never would have stayed this long,’’ Winsor said.

Williams sometimes works 15-hour days. By the time he returns home after an athletic event, it is understandable that he is tired. Who wouldn’t be?

Soon, his routine will change in a big way.

“I know the time is right,’’ he said.

His agenda likely won’t involve much sitting around, however.

A Phoenix native whose father was a horseman, Williams plans to go for walks along some nearby bridle paths, do some bike riding, as well as test his keen eye by firing arrows at archery bales set up in his back yard or maybe go to a shooting range. He also plans to get a rescue dog (he is hopeful to get a yellow Labrador retriever) and already is considering a name -- Murphy.

And he probably will run into Xavier alumni in some of the stores near his home. He acknowledged that some might not always agree or have agreed with his disciplinary tone, but it all is/was in the Xavier cause.

“I tell the students that I knew some of their parents and even some of their grandparents,’’ he said.

“Some of the kids along the way have looked at me like I was from outer space. But I think they know now that what I was telling them was for their own good.’’

Staffers sometimes can be included.

One was riding a razor scooter when Williams told her it was not a good idea. She tried it again on a different day and went past where he usually is stationed, thinking she was home free because he was not there. Or so she thought. But he came around the corner and wagged his finger at her.

“Busted,’’ she said with a laugh.

For many years, Williams would wear a nice jacket, tie and shoes while working events, but this year being the last, he relaxed that approach while wearing an Xavier logo shirt, khakis and tennis shoes.

And the ID badge.

“Whenever you see the badge, you know I’m working,’’ he said.

“I might always be working in some ways, maybe thinking about it. Someone suggested putting up big cardboard (photo) cutouts of me in the gym next year.’’

He said he will miss interacting with students, faculty and staff.

“They have been a big part of my life,’’ he said.

And he has been a big part of theirs.

“With all of the jobs he has done, he will be sorely missed,’’ Winsor said.

So, Xavier nation, if you ever happen to run across Williams during some of your jaunts around town, tell him how much you have appreciated him.

It will make him feel good. You, too.

Godspeed, Mr. Mike.

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