Patience pays for Williams
Notre Dame signed four in-state prospects this cycle, the program’s most in a quarter century.
How the Irish got there can be traced back to a December text message Sheldon Day sent to a former high school teammate.
At the time Mykelti Williams was considering Indiana, Louisville, Minnesota, Nebraska and Ole Miss. When Day reached out to a player he remembered from the Warren Central scout team, it instantly changed Williams’ leaderboard.
“Sheldon told me that coach (Brian) VanGorder and coach (Mike) Elston were going to come down and interview me,” Williams said. “That’s basically what it was, an interview. Sheldon told me they wanted to see if I was their type of guy. He gave me the heads up of what I should expect.”
Day was a senior at Warren Central when Williams was a freshman.
“I know Sheldon very well,” Williams said. “I played varsity, so I was around him and [Georgia linebacker] Timmy Kimbrough a lot, and they took me in as a little brother. I was the little guy running around on the scout team, so I basically played against them.”
Days before the Irish staff made that trip down U.S. 31 to Indianapolis, Williams took his first official visit to Minnesota, and to outsiders, the Gophers looked poised to take the lead in his recruitment.
“During that time, Maryland came by, and so did Indiana,” Williams said. “I liked Minnesota, and I was still hearing a lot from Louisville and Ole Miss. Ohio State had just visited me, too. But, I was waiting for Notre Dame. The crazy thing was that before they came to visit me, I told my mom if Notre Dame was going to offer, I was going to commit.”
Williams said he took a business-like approach to the visit from VanGorder and Elston.
“I was a little nervous, but I was myself in the interview,” Williams said. “I just spoke how I usually speak, and I was myself. They asked me if would come in and be ready to lead, and they were basically trying to see how I would handle myself under pressure. Afterwards, they told me I did a great job and that I represented myself well and my school well, which was relieving. A week later I heard from coach Elston on the phone that I was being offered.”
Williams had visited Notre Dame during the summer, but at that point, he wasn’t much of a priority for the Irish staff. From relatively off the radar to front and center in a matter of days, Williams called Notre Dame’s interest late in the game a blessing.
“Coach Elston told me straight up in the spring that he didn’t know if Notre Dame would have a spot for me, but that he was going to keep talking to me,” Williams said. “We kept talking and building that relationship. All of a sudden in December, they came back and had the need for safeties. I came out on the top of that list, and it was just a blessing.”
Despite holding offers from ACC, Big Ten, and SEC programs since he was a sophomore, Williams searched for the right fit for more than a year.
“I just had a feeling something else was out there for me,” Williams said. “No disrespect to the other schools, but I felt like something better might happen. I know I made the right decision in the end to wait it out.”
As excited as Williams is to have found Notre Dame, the Irish should be equally relieved to have landed the three-star prospect at a true position of need so late in the game.
Notre Dame has been hit with a heavy dose of attrition at safety in the past year through injury and transfer. That means Williams will be expected to compete for early playing time, something he learned from Brian Kelly during his official visit in January.
“It’s exciting, I’m ready,” Williams said. “I’m working out like crazy right now, and it makes me question sometimes why am I really doing this. But, I know why.”
What Williams has been doing is showing up at school at 5:45 a.m. four times a week, getting let into the facilities by the Warren Central athletic director. Then he follows the workout routine crafted by Georgia and sent to Kimbrough after he signed with the Bulldogs two years ago.
“We do a series of speed and agility in the field house, and then we get on the track and do sprinting, either running the 200m 10 times or the 400m seven times. They’re all timed,” Williams said. “Then we come inside and do intense lifting. We’ll do circuit training, like five sets of 10 front squats at 290 pounds and back squats at 315 pounds, then box jumps, leg curls and leg presses. Some days I end up throwing up, but it’s worth it. It’s good for me.”
Football runs in the family for the 5-foot-11, 195-pound safety, whose father, Sam Williams, played running back at Kentucky and has coached Mykelti for most of his life, including as an assistant at Warren Central.
“It’s been really good,” said the Irish signee. “He doesn’t treat me any differently. You wouldn’t be able to tell we are father and son on the field. He lets other coaches coach me. That’s been a real key to my success. He really lets me go. I think that’s really helped me grow.”
Williams started playing football when was six, mostly running back and quarterback until his sophomore year.
“My freshman year I played quarterback, and the summer of my sophomore year I got moved to defensive back,” Williams said. “I just went with it and hoped it would be the best for me, and it worked out. I never questioned it.”
Williams also never questioned his commitment to Notre Dame, even after defending national champion Ohio State made a serious run at him with less than two weeks until signing day.
“I love Notre Dame,” Williams said. “It’s really a unique experience. There’s no other place like it, and I can’t wait to get up there.”