12/31/17 — Football: All Area Player of the Year --William Archer, North Duplin

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Football: All Area Player of the Year --William Archer, North Duplin

By Justin Hayes
Published in Sports on December 31, 2017 2:09 PM

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North Duplin's William Archer

LAGRANGE -- Pitch it, pull it or keep it.

That notion dominated his senior year, in theory and practice, from August workouts in Calypso's most finely-manicured crater to a pad-popping prize fight with Cherokee in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1A title game in Raleigh on Dec. 9.

In retrospect, his effort -- and the teams' season, for that matter -- was equal parts "Hoosiers," where small-town kids work farmer's hours to accomplish big things, and part NFL Films, where the bruising reality of a dream shattered postures over you like a squall line.

But even in defeat, the loss was still the cherry on top of a young man's life lived in many ways -- and for too long -- on the edge of silence.

Because North Duplin senior quarterback William Archer, the 2017 News-Argus All-Area Player of the Year, is a lot more than a Maxpreps summary graph of 280 carries, 1,936 rushing yards and 39 total touchdowns.

And that's a good thing.


Will, have a great time at your new school.

I hope you can come and visit us.

I hope you can make new friends at your school. -- Allison

The little yellow book, a spiral-bound keepsake from his second grade year in small town- Ohio, is complete with a big blue dog on its cover, smiling the way a good boy does when being praised and rewarded with his favorite treat.

As irony goes, it's quite thick.

"That's the last thing they sent me off with," Archer says with a slow smile. "This is the only memory I even have of the classroom at all... and those kids."

Its content, expressed in varying degrees of loose penmanship, is equal parts fun and funny -- a collection of raw rambling, poignant honesty and misspelled words -- and wholly treasured by Archer to this day.

It's the type of memento kept by even the most wasteful person, and revisited during lean times -- when the symphony of life only seems capable of ringing with the rage of crashing cymbals and rolling thunder -- for clarity.

We will miss you.

We hope you can have good friends down there.

You were a good friend. I will never forget you.

Have a good time with your Dad. We'll be sad and still remember you.

Have fun at the ocean. -- Jenna

"I used to not let anybody read this book," Archer said, his voice peaking. "Even though I couldn't read it when I came to North Carolina, I didn't want anybody to read it... it meant that much to me. I wouldn't let anybody see it... Nobody was allowed to get near it."

Or him, really, for the longest time.


I hope you have fun at your new house.

Sorry for what I did to you.

You were a good friend and person, and the best at everything we're not. -- Unknown classmate

Youngstown is a mercurial spot on Mother Earth, to say the very least, caught in a longish-running fight for status between its industrial past and now-toney downtown panache.

Once owned part-and-parcel by corruption and scandal, the city was ranked by Morgan Quitno Press as the 9th most dangerous in the United States in a 2006 publication. Just six years later, however, Forbes.com hailed it as the 4th-best place in all the land to raise a family.

There are comebacks, it seems, and there is Youngstown.

Where Archer played as a lad, life wasn't a postcard-snap of fun picnics and sunny days.

I will remember you. -- Sydney

P.S. Punkin' Will... miss you.

Archer arrived in the Old North State on March 9, 2008, with his older brother, Patrick

And the yellow book, of course.


It was more than a reminder of his days in Youngstown, when his life ebbed and flowed in the ways a punching bag does when its ceiling tether gets rusty.

It's who he really was, and still is for that matter, described in honest detail by his peers. But for Archer, the book was something different -- a ceaseless, gauntlet-inspired haunt -- for being that close to the truth about yourself, yet lacking the power to read it.  

Will, I'm going to miss you.

I hope I will see you again.

I hope you have fun with your Dad.  

Bye Will. -- Lily

Determined to read the yellow binder before anyone else, Archer began his quest with the unyielding help of a new grandmother who didn't appear to want anything as much as she wanted to see her new baby blossom.

"She helped me learn," Archer said. "We spent hours after school, everyday... she made flash cards, and we'd just go through them. That was it... and wanting to learn."

From there, he continued developing on the page, graduating from grade-school specifics to full titles, the first being "Where the Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls -- a piece he knows cold, from the title page to the publisher to the illustrator.   

Still though, it was work.

And further still, the work remains.

"It was always another level," he said of the journey. "I might be able to read the little book, but I always challenged myself to go up one... it was never easy."

So after many starts and stops, tears and trials, the kid who couldn't make sense of words finally started commanding them.

And while he is no longer the 8-year old who once threw his books in the trash can, or asked Santa Claus for his very own punching bag, William Archer is very much the things written about him all those years ago by a gaggle of second-grade classmates in Youngstown, Ohio.

That's a good thing.