After visiting Georgia Southern’s campus on an impromptu trip recently, Christian Williams walked away with a sense of inner peace and comfort.
Those were some of the core elements he wanted in a potential home-away-from-home college atmosphere.
“I took a surprise visit up there Saturday, just on the fly,” said Williams, an offensive lineman at Wetumpka High. “I went down there, and it felt just like home. Statesboro gave me that small-town feeling. It was something similar to living in Wetumpka.”
That was enough to seal the deal. Earlier this week, Williams concluded his whirlwind recruiting journey with a verbal commitment to a Georgia Southern program that will be joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2014.
“I just felt that they’re on the rise,” Williams said. “They just moved up to the Sun Belt, they’ve lost three games the past three years, and I like the new facilities they just got. Just the whole vibe about what they’re doing intrigued me the most.”
Coached by Jeff Monken, the Eagles are making the transition to Division I-A. The school, which plays nonconference games against North Carolina State, Georgia Tech and Navy in 2014, won’t be bowl eligible until 2015. Georgia Southern currently plays in the Division I-AA Southern Conference.
It has been a rapid ascent the past few months for the 6-foot-1, 309-pound senior, who went from a virtual unknown to one of the hottest high school prospects in the South following his impressive performance in April at the Nike Football Training Camp in Atlanta.
In the days after the camp, Williams watched his stock skyrocket, and offers came in from numerous programs — Alabama State, Jacksonville State and South Alabama, to name a few. Higher-profile schools like Auburn, Georgia Tech and Mississippi State even showed interest.
Williams received no scholarship offers after his junior year.
“It took a lot of hard work,” said Williams, recruited to play center for the Eagles. “At the end of football season, I was calling around to coaches, and some would answer and some wouldn’t. I actually had a coach tell me to stop calling, and this was at a Division II school.
“After that, I just kept on hitting the weight room and stopped calling coaches. … I’ve become more mentally tough.”
Wetumpka coach Tim Perry has seen the transformation firsthand.
“He’s made a choice to get more focused in the weight room to get as strong as he can,” Perry said. “We’re all just proud of him. He set a goal, and has been unwavering in reaching it.”