Imagine being 14 years old and the biggest thing your area has seen in close to a decade. Most kids that age are still transitioning to high school football – but not Antonio Williams. Williams is already the face of North Stanly High School's football program and recently picked up his first scholarship offer from North Carolina.
“It’s overwhelming to be in the position that I’m in,” said Antonio Williams. “But I just have to thank my teammates for being by my side the whole time and blocking like they have this season. It (the scholarship offer) set in about three days ago, but it is still hitting me day by day. I wasn’t expecting it, but I was getting closer to the coaching staff week by week.”
Williams’ physical abilities are not the only thing that makes him such a special player.
“The passion,” said North Stanly head coach Ralph Jackson. “Going back to his middle school years, he said he wanted to win the Heisman Trophy and play in the NFL. He comes to practice every day like it’s his job."
How impressive is Williams’ work ethic?
“You can’t even put that into words” Jackson said. “Beyond the fact of how competitive he is, he’s just as good of a leader at the age of 14. Right now, he's about 95 percent of our offense”
While he is on pace to rush for close to 2,000 yards and 30 touchdowns, Jackson said his running back continues to get better.
“It’s night and day since the first day of practice,” Jackson said. “He started out good, but game after game he’s gotten better – as far as his vision, running north and south, and he just keeps those legs churning.”
“Improvements – he needs to work on his blocking,” Jackson said with a smile.
The in-state Tar Heels are not the only school to reach out to him.
“I have already heard from Arizona and Clemson,” Williams said. “I would like to hear from Georgia because I’ve always liked them and watched them growing up. It would also be good to hear from Auburn.”
With New London's population only about 600 people, it would be easy for a Williams to get caught in all the hype around him. However, do not expect that to happen.
“I just think that if I get too into this, that it could mess up our team,” he said. “I want to continue to keep it like it has been. If I do that, we will continue to go in a good direction.”
The support of his father and his coach has had a huge impact on him.
“My dad has just encouraged me to do the best that I can out there and to never give up,” he said. “My coach has had a big influence on my play as well.”
Williams’ coach has no doubt about how good his star running back can be.
“The upside is just tremendous,” said Jackson. "He will bring a lot of attention to this place. We have some decent athletes, who can play at the next level. But he is going to be that springboard that can help them.”
“He will be the best player to come through this area – hands down. We had T.A. McClendon come through Stanly County… and Antonio a different type of player. I give T.A. all the credit in the world because he is by far the best thing to come through Stanly County. But if Antonio stays injury-free, he’s knocking on the door and he’s going to kick it in.”
Williams plans to visit Clemson in mid-October. This Friday, North Stanly takes on Union Academy at 7:30.