Millbrook linebacker James Smith-Williams will get a head start by arriving at NC State one semester ahead of many of the program’s other commitments. That could help him see action earlier than he would if he waited until June.
For Smith-Williams the decision was easy. It really wasn't even much of a decision. Leaving family and friends a little earlier than he expected might not be ideal, but it’s a small sacrifice when you consider the possible reward of early playing time, academic and athletic advancement, and more time in a college environment.
With every conversation he has with NCSU’s coaches and especially after visiting Carter-Finley Stadium for the Wolfpack’s dramatic come from behind win in game one Smith-Williams feels like he’s made the right decision to enroll early.
“I’m going to be there in January. That’s the plan. I’ve got one semester of high school classes. My English is in there and that’s all I needed. My grades are good. All I have to do is sign the papers whenever I’m ready.”
His decision to enroll early has not been a distraction on the field. In Millbrook’s last game Smith-Williams led his team with eight tackles, three tackles for loss and a pass breakup. In his first game he had two sacks.
Smith-Williams expects to be a linebacker in college but he will be playing defensive end all this season. That won’t be the kind of position experience that would be ideal but it will help his pass rushing skills. There will be plenty of that in college wherever he plays.
Kengera Daniel is Smith-Williams’ teammate at Millbrook and he’s been talking to him about staying close to home for some time. The two visited NC State for the Wolfpack's season opener together.
“It was cool being down there before the game. I put a picture on my Instagram with me and Kengera with the NC State student section cheering for us. Then in the locker room I got to hear Coach Doeren’s speech. Guys were fired up. I don’t know what they call it. Maybe the Law of the Jungle or something like that. But it was cool. Coach said they shook off a slow start, brought it together and did what they had to do to get the win. I thought it was a good game. It was closer than I expected but you could tell Georgia Southern was prepared. They had a real slow start but once they got settled and kicked in they did what they wanted to.
“The fans are definitely electric. They have a strong student section. It definitely gets a little more rowdy than the rest of the places in the state.”