Williams Opts For UM

Willie Williams teased the Florida State Seminoles' football program Wednesday morning - and the laughter could be heard loud and clear in Coral Gables. After several months of keeping school officials, coaches and supporters in suspense as to where he might land to kick-off his college football career the 6-2, 228-pound linebacker out of Carol City High in Miami had a little fun at the expense of the Seminoles.

Minutes after approaching a podium at the school's library Williams informed the gathered crowd he needed some more time think over his decision. Shortly after reappearing Williams slipped on a Florida State cap and Deion Sanders' throwback jersey. But within seconds he had replaced the garb with a Miami cap and Jerome Brown throwback jersey. Williams started removing the UM gear before thinking better of it.

"I'm going to the U(M)," said Williams, officially committing to the University of Miami during National Signing Day. "It was definitely a lot of pressure and a tough process for me, but in the end UM just had too many things to offer. This was a decision I had to make for me and my family - and I think the best place for me is Miami."

Williams, rated the No. 1 player in the state of Florida and top linebacker in the nation by the Miami Herald, led Carol City to the 2003 Class 6A state championship with 88 tackles and 12 sacks despite missing three games. With Williams alternating at outside and inside linebacker Carol City finished sixth in the county in points (10.3) and yards (226.3) allowed per game. Williams was not available for the season-opener because he had not been cleared to play by the FHSAA after transferring to Carol City from Monsignor Pace before the start of the season. A severely sprained ankle also sidelined him for several games.

But the times he was on the field Williams displayed the skills that made him one of the most highly recruited players in the nation. Williams constantly ran down opposing players from behind and was near the football on virtually every play from his spot. Not only is he a gifted athlete, but Williams also showed versatility by playing several different positions at Carol City.

"This young man came in and after the first three or four weeks of being on this team you would have thought he'd been here since the ninth grade," said Carol City coach Walt Fraser. "Willie is just one of those guys that has a knack for the ball. He's going to be around the football more often than not."

The Hurricanes certainly hope so. With the graduations of Jonathan Vilma and D. J. Williams, the Hurricanes have several openings at linebacker that Williams could help fill. Junior Roger McIntosh is expected to start the spring as the Hurricanes' leading candidate to start at strongside linebacker, while Leon Williams could get the nod at middle linebacker. Williams could challenge sophomore Tavares Gooden for the starting assignment at weakside linebacker. Fellow standout freshman signee James Bryant will also be in the mix along with redshirt freshman Glenn Cook.

"I think I can play anywhere, that's really up to Coach Coker and the rest of the staff," said Williams, who was selected as the Class 3A player of the year as a junior. "I'm going to go in there with the attitude that I can play right off the bat."

Regardless, Williams will wear No. 17 - the same number D. J. Williams wore during his career at UM. But Willie Williams plans on building his own legacy in Coral Gables.

"I don't want to follow in D. J. William's footsteps. I believe I can make my own impact," said Williams. "Hopefully a little kid will be wearing my throwback jersey one day."

UM currently holds a five game winning-streak against FSU, including a 22-14 in last month's FedEx Orange Bowl. The Hurricanes play the Seminoles in a nationally televised season-opener September 6 and Williams promises to be ready to contribute.

"There's a lot of things I have to learn to make myself a better player at the next level," said Williams. "But I'm ready to go in there and get to work. I feel like I'm ready to take that next step."

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