As the Colorado Mammoth and teams around the National Lacrosse League (NLL) continue to navigate the offseason waters of expansion draft, entry draft and free agent action, we’re taking a look at some of the most impactful players from the Mammoth’s 2022 NLL Championship run.
Finishing its regular season with a 10-8 record and ranked third in the NLL’s West Conference, the squad made its historic run behind the efforts of one of the franchise’s most memorable and comprised squads in NLL history.
When the 2019-20 NLL campaign quickly came to a close, the Colorado Mammoth ended the season on an impressive three-game win streak, having recently defeated the Philadelphia Wings, Rochester Knighthawks and San Diego Seals leading into March 2020. Disappointed that the Loud House wouldn’t be open for business was one concern, but with several of the team’s well-known players being traded or rumored to be departing, it was an odd time for fans of the burgundy and black squad.
Fast forward to July 6, 2020, when the Mammoth announce the club had finalized a trade with the Georgia Swarm. Colorado sent then-captain Dan Coates and two second-round selections in the 2020 NLL Entry Draft to the Swarm in exchange for a young forward in Zed Williams, who had yet to prove himself as a consistent contributor in the box game, but swelled with potential in the outdoor space.
Following the trade (and before, too, really) Williams helped the Whipsnakes capture the PLL championship en route to being named the PLL’s most valuable player as the result of another dominating season of play. Measuring in at 6-3, 235 lbs., Williams was constantly a mismatch for defenders, regularly drawing an extra slide and still getting his way. But, the forward hadn’t found much success indoors at that point in his career, having to share playing time with NLL veterans in Lyle Thompson, Shayne Jackson, Randy Staats and beyond.
That didn’t stop the Mammoth from pursuing the potent scoring threat and eventually acquiring the Virginia University alumnus, now more than two years ago.
While the 2020-21 NLL season was ultimately scratched due to continuing pandemic concerns, Williams went back to work with his Whips’ teammates in the summer of 2021, continuing to dominate his competition and proving to Mammoth fans that he just might be worth the haul of assets the club gave up to acquire the forward.
Tall, strong, quiet, quick, experienced and always with his stick in hand, Williams is a family man who happens to dominate the game he loves: The Creator’s Game.
One of the most physical players in the league this year, Zed didn’t skip an offseason workout last summer. Partly because he was busy tearing up the outdoor league’s competition and partly because the former PLL MVP eats, sleeps and dreams lacrosse.
While Williams and his outdoor crew didn’t capture the 2021 championship, he couldn’t have been more motivated coming into Colorado’s training camp last November.
Having recorded 83 points (45g, 38a) in 39 games with the Swarm, Williams was ready to work alongside Colorado quarterback Ryan Lee in taking his game to the next level. Dating back to his first two contests with the Mammoth in December 2021, the effort Zed gives on an every-play basis quickly gained the attention of the Citizens of the Loud House, as Williams was regularly making both effort and skill-based plays, eventually helping the Mammoth to a 6-2 start. One specific effort, where the forward did a bit of back-checking during a transition opportunity, Williams completed crushed an aware member of the opposition, quickly established possession and flung a beautiful pass to then-teammate Sam LeClair, who finished the extra-effort play with ease, thanks to Zed.
Once that was on film, Mammoth fans were officially invested in their new forward.
During his first season in Colorado and first as a regular contributor in an NLL rotation, Williams recorded a new career-best assist total (25) while tying his career-best point total (45). As impressive and physically-gifted Williams is, his ability to connect with teammates while drawing a second, third or even fourth man was unmatched. And the best part? The celebration.
Unselfish in nature, Williams was almost always the first to pick up a teammate who crashed into the crease or run over to whoever slid him a nice assist on the score. The “We, not me” mindset.
Throughout the regular season, he played in his 50th career game, recorded his 100th career point, 50th career goal and 50th assist. A great asset in Colorado’s 18-game stretch, but even more, a massive boost during the team’s seven-game postseason run.
Williams took his gameplay to another level in the playoffs, recording a personal-best 37 points (20g, 17a) in seven games as the Mammoth was eventually rendered without the services of Ryan Lee and then Eli McLaughlin as the postseason progressed. Prior to the 2021-22 NLL postseason, Williams had recorded one goal in one postseason appearance with the Swarm.
The dominant force recorded five-plus points in five of his seven playoff appearances this year, as Williams posted six points (5g, 1a) in Game 1 of the West Conference Finals, five points (2g, 3a) in Game 3 against the Seals before posting three, six-plus-point outings in the NLL Finals, including eight points (4g, 4a) in Game 1, seven points (4g, 3a) in Game 2 and six points in Game 3 (4g, 2a). His 37 points finished the postseason ranked fourth overall among NLL scorers, behind only teammates Eli McLaughlin, Connor Robinson and Buffalo’s Josh Byrne.
And once Game 3 of the NLL Finals concluded and the celebrations began in Buffalo, Williams quickly found his family. His non-Mammoth family, that is. Thankfully for them, this was essentially a home game for Williams and his group, as a majority of his family members live just outside Buffalo.
As dominant of a force he is on the field, it’s Zed calming, relaxed nature who makes him an elite player and person. He loves the game, but plays for his family over all else.
While he wasn’t the first in line to opt into an interview opportunity or speak up in the huddle most weeks, he was always the first to ask you about your family, about how things outside the lacrosse world were going, and legitimately cared about your responses. Someone who cared about the humans, the women, the men involved throughout the organization. An ambassador to the sport, now an NLL champion.
Looking back on that magical season, everyone in the club learned something about themselves, about the game, about this team through Zed. If there’s ever been an athlete that lacrosse players and the community alike could feel good looking up to, he’d be the guy, and likely is.