William and Mary 2021 fall season preview

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WILLIAMSBURG (W&M Athletics) – What does William & Mary football head coach Mike London like about undersized defensive tackle Zyquan Bessant? The question itself gives him pause.

“What do I like about him?” he repeats. “We only have a couple of minutes here.”

There is plenty to cover. Bessant, a.k.a. “Termite,” joined the program with no scholarship and no promises other than a chance to prove himself. He did that from the jump and was one of eight true freshmen to play in 2018.

As a sophomore, Bessant appeared in all 12 games with one start. Then, just before spring practice began in February 2020, he was one of six players put on scholarship thanks to the HEYFARL (Hundreds Each Year For A Rising Letterman) program.

Then came the ultimate honor for Bessant: He was voted by his teammates to be one of five captains for the 2021 season.

So to let London finish his thought …

“I love his heart, I love his energy, and I love his leadership skills,” he said. “He’s truly a selfless player. And if you’re not holding your end of the line, he will call you out no matter if you’re a starter or a third-team guy.”

Again, this is a young man who had no Division I scholarship offers and whose only preferred walk-on opportunity was William & Mary.

“When I first came here, I always had a chip on my shoulder,” Bessant said. “I knew some people might look down on me and not see me as being much about anything.

“But I knew I had to keep working hard. I was never content with being average or having just enough effort. I had to always go above and beyond. I came in determined to make a statement and show people what I was really made of.”

W&M defensive end Carl Fowler, also a team captain, believes Bessant’s path gives him a good perspective to lead.

“Zyquan never forgets where he came from,” Fowler said. “He’s not a guy who has any level of entitlement. He’s earned everything he’s gotten and probably more than he’s gotten.

“He’s one of those guys who is a vocal leader, which some people might be surprised by because he’s kind of a quiet dude off the field. But he walks the walk as he talks the talk.”

Bessant stands only 5-foot-10, which is probably why there was little recruiting interest. That’s also probably why one of his coaches at Norview High in Norfolk wanted a nickname for Bessant that was similar to Mighty Mite.

It wasn’t the first, 10th, or maybe even 20th attempt, but “Termite” eventually stuck.

“Everyone calls me that now — the players, training room staff, coaches, even some of my friends on campus,” he said. “Not the professors, but they’re always amused by the fact that people in my class call me ‘Termite.'”

Bessant’s family nickname is “Shy” — not because of his nature, but because his middle name is Shyheem.

Six weeks after Bessant earned his scholarship, COVID-19 broke and the 2020 season was canceled. The Tribe was able to play three games the following spring, and Bessant started each. He made six tackles, four of which came in the opener at Richmond.

Going into the spring, Bessant switched his jersey number from 93 to 0. His reason? “It fits me well,” he said, “because I play in the middle of the defense.”

Preseason practice has started, and the opener at Virginia is three weeks from Saturday. This will be Bessant’s first full season as a captain, and he’s determined to do the job well.

One group he can definitely relate to is the walk-ons. He’s been there, and he’s a success story.

“I tell every walk-on that comes in here, if you keep working, you’re going to have an opportunity,” said Bessant, who is scheduled to graduate next spring with a degree in accounting. “I didn’t come in as one of the biggest recruited guys, but I didn’t let that stop me.

“You have to keep working, because at the end of the day, it’s not always about what’s on the outside but what’s on the inside. Your mentality plays a big part.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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