NEW LONDON, N.C. – In the small North Carolina town of New London there is a potential star in the making. North Stanly High School is home to just 560 students and one of the top freshman football players in the country in Antonio Williams.
Freshman Antonio Williams already has a handful of verbal offers.
Not only did the 5-foot-11, 195-pound powerful runner burst onto the scene in 2012 with more than 400 yards and six touchdowns in his first two games creating buzz in the area, but he also caught the attention of a number of college programs in the region, including North Carolina, N.C. State, Clemson, South Carolina and Georgia.
As impressive as his first two games were, it was his combination of production to the tune of over 1,500 yards in 11 games, and toughness on a 2-9 North Stanly team that impressed head coach Ralph Jackson.
“As a back, Antonio has great vision,” Jackson said. “And he is very powerful and runs with a lot of authority for his age. His cuts are so explosive, by the time he hits the ground it’s three yards. He’s ahead of the pack in that regard. We knew he was going to be very good watching him coming up in junior high, but he has proven his toughness since getting to high school,”
For the focused and hard-working Williams, a distant relative of former NFL safety Brian Dawkins, the terrific freshman campaign was all about preparation.
“I had prepared for it (the season),” Williams said. “I knew what I had to do, and my offensive line did a great job. We worked hard all season as a team,”
It’s that mature work ethic and leadership ability that stands out to Jackson as much as pure and raw talent.
“He works hard in the weight room. He’s a gym rat. He’s always looking for the next best thing to get better. He’s so dedicated that he has a group of teammates that get to school at 5 a.m. They work out before school on their own. He’s a leader, obviously,” Jackson said.
High praise indeed for the talented freshman, and college programs have certainly taken notice.
“”I have offers from UNC, N.C. State, South Carolina, Clemson and Georgia,” he said. “It seems like it still hasn’t set in how fast this has happened. I don’t know why, but it is kind of crazy because I’m only a freshman and have three years left. I just can’t imagine what its going to be like if I keep this up,”
The choice to offer very early is a no-brainer for top college programs in the region due to a size and speed combination most don’t have at Williams’ age.
“We’ve timed him. He ran a 4.50 hand-timed forty, but he has the ability to get even faster with his body type and structure. I’m predicting he’ll be a 4.4 hand-timed guy when it’s all said and done. I think he can get to 215-pounds, as well,” Jackson said.
While Williams is humble when talking about his impressive freshman stat line, he oozes confidence when breaking down his strengths as a runner while also understanding the need to be a complete back.
“I think I have great vision, and a good amount of power for a guy my age. I’m just trying to work on my blocking. That’s my weak spot, and I’m not even going to lie about it. I have to get better. I don’t just want to be a good back, I want to be a great one,” he said.
Williams took the time to give his thoughts on the programs that have offered.
Clemson – I like Clemson. I like the offense, and I’m hoping to camp there. I hope to go down there and learn things that will help me get better.
Georgia – They were my favorite team growing up. I’ve always liked Georgia. Herschel Walker has always been one of the greatest to me. I do like their campus, too.
South Carolina – South Carolina, I’ve been down there once. I liked it a lot. It was the first SEC school that I went to. I really like the SEC. It seems like a different level of football. I was there when Lattimore got hurt. It showed how great their fans are, and how important he was for their team. You have to prepare for the worst, but hope for the best and be serious about that degree.
North Carolina – If I did start to blow up, I knew the in-state schools would be on me first. UNC was my first offer. The funny thing is I was a Duke fan growing up because of basketball, but UNC being the first to offer changed my perspective of them. I like UNC, and that offer could change my life.
N.C. State – I really like N.C. State. I want to keep going up there and learn about their new staff. I like what I know so far.
While Williams is happy with the offers he currently has, he hopes to add more with three schools on the tip of his tongue.
“I would like to be offered by Michigan, USC and LSU. Those are three I think I could fit in at.” He said.