Here is a peek ahead at one of the nation’s top wide receiver recruits in the 2015 class, Preston Williams.
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In the state of Georgia, it’s rare for a talented player to fly under the national recruiting radar. This is especially true of a wide receiver who stands 6-foot-5, 185-pounds by the time he’s a sophomore.
For Preston Williams, this is exactly what happened.
A torn hip muscle sidelined the Lovejoy (Hampton, Ga.) wideout for the 2012 season, meaning he didn’t begin attracting recruiting interest until the spring of his sophomore year. But after recording a pair of top-five finishes at the Class AAAAAA state track meet and lighting up spring football practice, the offers began rolling in.
“I told myself that you just have to be patient. It was going to come,” said Williams, who finished fourth in the triple jump and fifth in the long jump at state last spring. “I just had to be patient, and I had to keep working hard.”
The hard work paid off and his patience was rewarded, as Williams racked up more than 20 offers by the beginning of his junior year. Before September was out, Williams had committed to Tennessee, but it wasn’t until the first round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs that Williams stepped firmly onto the national stage.
Trailing Marietta 23-21 with five seconds left, Williams streaked down the right sideline and hauled in a 47-yard touchdown pass to win the game. It was his fourth touchdown of the night, and he totaled 275 yards on 12 receptions overall.
“He was their offense that night,” said Marietta coach Scott Burton. “It was basically just physical dominance on a few plays, including the touchdown that won the game for them.”
For the season, Williams finished with 55 receptions for 1,389 yards and 13 touchdowns. It was a coming-out party his coaches had long predicted.
“My coaches always told me [the ability] was there, but I didn’t know if it was going to come,” Williams said. “It kind of happened overnight. I’ve got to keep working, though, because I’m not great yet.”
Committing to his “dream school”
As the flood of verbal offers began coming in during the spring and summer of 2013, Williams suddenly had many upper-echelon schools to choose from.
Some observers gave Alabama the edge because Williams’ father, Antoneyo, briefly played for the Crimson Tide. Others thought home-state Georgia would be the pick. But on Sept. 21, Williams committed to Tennessee, his childhood favorite.
“Tennessee has been my school from day one,” Williams said. “I just feel like they have been my dream school. I have been up there more than any school. When you take visits, it’s not about getting shown a good time, but (finding a school) where you will be really grounded, and (for me) that is Tennessee.”
Even though he is solidly committed to the Volunteers, the big-play wide receiver has continued to make unofficial visits to Georgia, Florida, Clemson and Auburn, with more expected. Though many top programs remain in hot pursuit, getting Williams to decommit from Tennessee will not be an easy task.
“It’s my four years,” Williams said. “Wherever I feel most comfortable at, my parents are going to support me. What it comes down to really is where I believe I can be the most successful at, and that is Tennessee.”
Between practices and games, combines, camps and campus visits — never mind school and studying — being a top football recruit is extremely time consuming.
When talking to Williams, it’s clear football is a very important piece of the puzzle, but not the only one.
Williams not only harbors NFL aspirations, but he also hopes to become a successful model and fashion designer.
“That’s what I do now — I’m in high school and I do modeling,” said Williams, who runs Crazy 8 Models with a cousin. “I see that as my second love. Instead of just sitting around, it keeps me busy, and I love modeling and fashion.”
Williams knows many people consider him different because of his off-the-field aspirations, and he is just fine the way some define him.
“You have got to be different and have an open mind. You can’t just be football, football, football, because the NFL is not for long,” he said. “Fashion, that can last a lifetime. It’s tough to break in, though. Some days I may have a camp and then a photo shoot, or a game and then a show on the weekend. It’s tough to manage it, but I’m always trying to work to where football is first and have modeling and fashion as my secondary focus.”
As expected, some college coaches have attempted to use modeling and fashion in their recruiting pitches.
“They say they didn’t know the best receiver in the nation could be a male model,” Williams said. “They are trying to use that in recruiting me. They want me to take fashion classes, (become a) fashion design major and things like that. One coach even joked with me about being a Victoria’s Secret model, but I’m not a Victoria’s Secret model.”