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But since then he has found another focus in his life - forestry - and he says he has "knuckled down" and works hard.
Mr Williams (23) gained the top regional title at a recent graduation of Otago-Southland forestry trainees.
The Forestry Industry Training and Education Council (Fitec) graduates gained national certificates in forestry disciplines and business skills.
The Southern Wood Council named Mr Williams as the 2012 Modern Apprentice of the Year.
After leaving school, the Dunedin man headed to Telford in South Otago.
Having never been a "hugely academic" person and preferring to be outdoors, a 75% practical and 25% theory-based certificate in forestry appealed to him.
He did well there, graduating in 2007, and he had enjoyed meeting new people.
He did work experience for Tony Gamble for about seven weeks, after which Mr Gamble offered him a job.
He was grateful for the support of his employer, saying Mr Gamble encouraged and paid for training.
He saw the benefits to his crew.
Mr Williams, who worked throughout Otago, said he was earning good money for someone his age and he enjoyed his job.
He worked hard, with 12-hour days, and while it "could be a bit of a downer" working outside when the weather was bad, "you get over it", he said.
He liked the heavy machinery and also fancied the idea of becoming a crew boss or crew foreman, running his own crew.
He took opportunities as they arose and had been thinking of doing extramural study through Massey University.
Mr Gamble said he was lucky to have a group of young workers who were all striving to do well.
Mr Williams was the second of their workers named apprentice of the year in two years, so the company was "on a bit of a roll", he said.
Fitec did a good job of co-ordinating the training and it was a good system that was "not too onerous" for the employer.
He was delighted to see his workers do well.