Up Close: Melvin Williams, Part I

COFFEYVILLE, Kan. --- "Quick learner" is one of the attributes Jeff Lieker, former head coach of Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, readily cites to describe Melvin Williams. Evidence of that assessment is prevalent throughout Williams' career.

Williams, a 6-foot, 200-pound defensive back, began his prep playing career in turmoil when he transferred to Lebanon (Tenn.) Wilson Central prior to his sophomore season. After weeks of meetings and litigation over eligibility disputes, Williams joined his teammates in time for their match-up with state powerhouse Smyrna (Tenn.), which featured Notre Dame-bound quarterback David Wolke.

"I hadn't practiced, hadn't done anything [football-wise]," Williams said. "… My first game back [my coach] started me at corner – that's how much confidence he had in me; he knew I was a playmaker. That game I didn't have any passes completed and had three PBUs."

Williams went on to have a stellar high school career culminating in first team All-State and first team All-District recognition following his senior season.

"My senior year that's when I became a lockdown corner," Williams said. "People didn't go to me, a lot."

As expected, area recruiters came calling. UAB, Troy, and Vanderbilt were Williams' heaviest pursuers.

"All of them were waiting on my SAT score," Williams said. "I was up there, but I kept on falling just short."

With Signing Day looming, interested Division I-A schools went in other directions.

The limited choices forced Williams to sign a National Letter of Intent with Tennessee Tech, a Division I-AA school 45 minutes away. However, he failed to qualify there, also.

Meanwhile, Williams' basketball coach sent his football game film to two junior colleges – Coffeyville and Glendale (Ariz.) – which resulted in scholarship offers.

"We got film on him, we liked him as a receiver/DB, but didn't know what side he'd end up on once he got here," Lieker said. "... He was an athletic guy, a cover guy, a physical guy. He picks up on things pretty quick, which is important because we don't have much time once we get to two-a-days."

Williams elected to attend Coffeyville because of the school's history of excellence on the field and in preparing its players for the college and professional ranks.

"I got on the internet and I saw all the tradition they had," Williams said. "Coffeyville is the No. 3 winningest junior college. I saw that and I was like ‘Wow.'

"I did my studying about Coffeyville. Reggie Nelson, Brandon Jacobs – just a lot of people came out of there."

A day after graduating from Wilson Central, Williams arrived at Coffeyville.

Coffeyville will sign roughly 60 recruits with each class, and then have the incoming freshmen compete for the vacant roster spots on Coffeyville's 55-man scholarship roster. The one catch: per Kansas rules, only 12 of the 55 scholarship players can be from outside the state. According to Lieker, the cutting process may not end until the eve of their first game.

"Every practice is like an NFL training camp at the junior college level," Lieker said. "It's very competitive. The thing about it, you like them on film out of high school, you bring them in, [but] you don't know how their confidence is, you don't know what their thought process is when you see other kids around just as talented."

In addition to the competition other incoming freshmen faced, Williams was competing for a roster spot in a secondary that already boasted two veteran cornerbacks, Chase Carter (Northern Illinois) and Miguel Graham (Akron) and an All-American free safety, Gary Chandler (Kansas State)

"When I got here to camp, I said in my head ‘I'm going to get one of those corner positions – no matter what. I'm going to work my butt off,'" Williams recalled.

After starting out at cornerback, Williams was moved into the starting lineup of the secondary at the open strong safety position.

"He could play either safety position," Lieker said. "He's a versatile player that picks up things really quickly. He can run, he can tackle."

Williams quickly adjusted to the new position.

"We had like four scrimmages and each scrimmage I had a big play," Williams said. "That's when I found out safety isn't bad, safety is a good position that I can get better at.

"It wasn't a big transition. The biggest thing was my calls. As the games came and went, I got better at making my calls. Safety, you get time to see everything, but corner you're locked in on a man."

Williams ended his freshman season with 87 tackles, good enough to rank second on Coffeyville's defense.

Being the lone returning starter in the secondary in 2007, Coffeyville's defense revolved around Williams.

"I focused on jumping routes better, anticipating routes," Williams said. "My coach blitzed me a lot. He got more trust in me."

Williams totaled two sacks and a couple of interceptions. He also recorded 52 tackles (28 solo), forced a fumble and blocked two kicks.

Since enrolling at Coffeyville, Williams has made sure to get his academics in order.

"He's done real well academically here," Lieker said. "He's taken everything and passed everything. I've never had a report from a teacher that he's missing class."

When Williams arrives at North Carolina in January, he will call on his quick learning ability for a move back to his old position -- cornerback.

Check back later this week for Part II, which will detail his recruitment and his future as a Tar Heel.

Melvin Williams Profile

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