Christian Williams knows now that he missed an opportunity to play Division I football directly out of high school. Specifically, Williams -- who weighed 205 pounds as a high school senior -- said he didn't prepare his body to play tight end at the Division I level.
"I just didn't take little things serious," Williams said. "I didn't take weight-training as serious in high school. I kind of learned too late."
In actuality, Williams just took the layover flight to the FBS. His maturity and strong play at Fullerton College, a junior college in southern California, recently earned him scholarship offers to Illinois, Idaho and Old Dominion.
"JuCo's like a second chance, and I feel I made the most of my second chance," Williams said. "Honestly, I wish I would've done it right the first time, but the coaches here have really helped me out. I'm really glad I went here."
Illinois called him with a scholarship offer earlier this week. Williams, who also is receiving interest from Utah State and New Mexico, said he has been in contact with offensive coordinator Garrick McGee and tight ends coach Garrick McGee.
"It's really exciting," Williams said. "Obviously going to a junior college, you're kind of relieved and excited that the hard work is starting to pay off. I was really excited about the Illinois offer. They think I'm one of the best tight ends and obviously they want me to go there."
Recognizing its roster holes following a 2-5 start to the season, the Illinois staff has stepped up its junior college scouting in recent weeks. One of the team's big short-term needs is at tight end. Illinois is receiving little production out of the position already and loses three of its top-four tight ends to graduation: Tyler White, Andrew Davis and Ainslie Johnson. The next players on the depth chart include three freshmen: Caleb Reams (redshirt freshman), Griffin Palmer (true freshman) and Andrew Trainer (true freshman).
The Illini think Williams can produce immediately at a position at which McGee wants more versatility.
"The spot's up for grabs next year because all the seniors they have are leaving," Williams said. "Then playing in front of that many people and in the Big Ten Conference, that's exciting. They like my game. I can put my hand on the ground. I can flex out. I'm able to run vertical down the field and all that good stuff. I can block and still catch the ball."
Through seven games this season for the Hornets (6-1), Williams has 18 catches for 291 yards and four touchdowns. He plans an Illinois visit after his season concludes.
"We already had our bye week, so I have to wait until after our season to go take visits," Williams said. "Once the season's over, I'll probably talk to the coaches about what's the best time to come up."
Williams thought he may have missed his opportunity to play college football. But his hard work at Fullerton may take him to a big-time conference in a faraway land.
"I guess I'm going to have to get used to the cold," Williams said. "It's not really cold in California ever. It's like 60 or 70 degrees. I know the town itself is a big college town. I know the people there take the football serious. Everyone's bought into the football program."null