De'Antwan Williams wanted to say something, but words failed him as he
grappled with the reality that one of the nation's most visible college
coaches was indeed talking to him.
So for the first 15 minutes of his phone conversation in the spring with Nick
Saban, Williams gave up trying to speak and simply listened as Saban pitched the
University of Alabama.
And there was plenty to take in.
Even though this was the first time he had ever talked with Williams, Saban made
sure the Woodbridge High School junior understood this was no courtesy call.
A masterful recruiter who landed the top-ranked recruiting class in 2008, Saban
got right to the point, offering Williams a scholarship. From there, Saban
talked about Alabama before tossing in one final attention-grabber: Saban told
Williams he reminded him of Ricky Williams, the all-pro running back Saban
coached in Miami.
Williams eventually collected himself enough to make it a two-way conversation
that lasted a good 35 minutes with Saban, but there was no doubt he was star
"For the first 15 minutes, I wasn't sure what to say back," said Williams,
who wears No. 34 in part because of Ricky Williams. "It shocked me."
This is a kid who doesn't get fazed by much, on or off the field.
He's been a headliner since his freshman year when he rushed for the first of
his three-straight 1,000-plus yard seasons. He knows he's the go-to guy, but
thrives on carrying a team on his shoulders.
Nor does he get flustered when say, his cell phone is stolen, which happened in
late May, while he was working out in the Woodbridge weight room. He wasn't
happy about it, since it was the second time during his high school career that
it had happened, but he dealt with it.
The talk with Saban, though, rattled him a bit. He'd received mail from
Alabama so he knew they were interested in him. But this interested?
"I had no clue they were serious," Williams said. "I figured they could
get whoever they want."
While Williams was already a Division I prospect coming into his junior season,
his profile expanded a great deal in the national recruiting circles after
leading Woodbridge to the Group AAA Division 6 state championship game in
In the state semifinals against Hermitage, Williams set a new Group AAA state
playoff record with 34 carries. He also rushed for 245 yards and five touchdowns
in the 42-27 victory.
In the state final against Westfield, Williams rushed for 129 yards on 20
carries and scored both Woodbridge touchdowns in a 42-14 loss. He finished the
season with 2,249 yards and 26 touchdowns and was named a first-team all-state
Williams' ability to hit the hole hard, bowl over would-be tacklers and then
sprint toward the end zone has always been one of his strengths. But following
his postseason performances, people noticed him even more.
He attended a photo shoot in the spring in Georgetown that was put together by
national recruiting analyst Tom Lemming.
Recruiting sites rank the 5-foot-7, 202-pound Williams as one of the top 10
players in Virginia for the class of 2009. Nationally, Rivals.com lists Williams
as the No. 120 player overall for 2009, the No. 1 best inside runner and the No.
12 overall running back.
College interest, meanwhile, continues to come in. Williams holds 14 scholarship
offers from Alabama, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Boston College, Rutgers,
West Virginia, Florida, South Carolina, Illinois, Pittsburgh, Marshall, Liberty
and James Madison.
Williams has kept a level head about all the attention he's received as he
tries and figures out what school offers him the best opportunity to play as
soon as possible, as well as what they offer academically.
But it's been an interesting ride so far.
The Ricky Williams' angle was repeated to Williams by Dave Wannstedt, the
University of Pittsburgh head coach who also coached Ricky Williams in Miami.
There was also the day when Williams decided to check his MySpace page after a
long hiatus and discovered that University of South Carolina head coach Steve
Spurrier had left a message on Williams' site, asking if Williams had any
interest in the Gamecocks. If he did, Spurrier left a phone number for Williams
to call him, which Williams followed up on.
Keith King, Williams' head coach at Woodbridge, has counseled his young star
to look at a number of factors in determining a school.
"It needs to fit his needs," King said. "He doesn't need to get caught
up in the prestige."
King has emphasized to Williams that he get to know not just the recruiter, but
the school's running backs coach as well.
In some cases, Williams' main recruiter has been both like in the case of
Virginia's Anthony Poindexter or West Virginia's Chris Beatty.
"This is someone you are going to be around for four years," King said.
Williams is not leaning toward one school yet over another.
Virginia was the first school to offer Williams back in the winter, while
Maryland is the school Williams has visited the most (seven times).
Williams plans to take unofficial visits to West Virginia this weekend and
Boston College and Alabama next month. The Alabama visit is scheduled for the
weekend of July 20th. The Crimson Tide will be hosting a camp that weekend, but
Williams said he is only going to see the school and will not participate in the
King would like to see Williams make a decision before the season starts to
avoid any distractions and Williams agrees with that. But if it takes longer
than that, Williams is prepared to hold off.
Meanwhile, he continues to sort through all his options. He keeps his recruiting
mail in the trunk of his car and his offer letters wrapped in a rubber band on
top of his dresser at home. The rest of the time he adopts a wait-and-see
approach, balancing his summer schedule with work and weight-lifting as he
narrows down his college wish list.
"It's been busy, but it's something I've always dreamed about,"
Williams said. "I like it. It doesn't bother me."