Williams is Wisconsin's First for 2016

Hoping to be the next player to carry on the rich running-back tradition at the University of Wisconsin, New London (NC) North Stanly junior running back Antonio Williams announces his verbal commitment to the Badgers, giving the program an elite-level tailback in the 2016 class.

In the days leading up to the Nebraska-Wisconsin football game, New London (NC) North Stanly junior running back Antonio Williams had a feeling that he was going to commit to the Badgers.

Then he saw tailback Melvin Gordon rush for a then-FBS record 408 yards behind a massive offensive line, and he knew Wisconsin was the place he wanted to play college football.

A long time lean to Wisconsin, Williams finally made it official tonight at a commitment ceremony at his school, pledging to the Badgers over North Carolina, Auburn, Duke and Notre Dame, among others.

He actually committed last Saturday while on an unofficial visit for Wisconsin’s rivalry win over Minnesota that clinched the outright Big Ten championship for the program, a visit he said solidified his decision.

“I chose Wisconsin because I’ve built such a great relationship with the coaches and they have the best fan base in the country, plus it is ‘Running Back University,’” Williams told BadgerNation. “I knew I wanted to go there a few days before Melvin broke the record. I can’t really explain that how I knew. You just kind of know the place is right for you.”

Recruiting by running back coach Thomas Brown, the 5-11, 195-pound Williams is a huge recruiting score for the Badgers 14 months away from the 2016 class’ national signing day. Rated a four-star recruit, the No.10 running back in the country and the No.100 overall prospect in the country for his class by Scout.com, Williams got a huge reaction from Brown when he delivered the news.

“He was very excited, and I’m very excited to have him as a coach,” said Williams. “He just got out of the game recently, so he knows a lot, and I think I can learn a lot ... We have the closest relationship I’ve ever had with a coach. Coach Brown and I are like family now, not just a coach and player relationship. We can talk about anything and everything.”

On his unofficial visit, Williams studied Wisconsin’s offensive line – a massive group of movers who have helped Gordon rush for over 100 yards in every FBS game this season. When Williams thinks of Wisconsin football, he thinks of the power up front. “I want to see how the offensive line run blocks, and Wisconsin has a great run-blocking scheme,” he said. “Any running back can run through that. Being a great running back is being able to make a guy miss … and I think I can do that in the Wisconsin offense.”

A former North Carolina commit, Williams was committed to the Tar Heels for months until he reopened his recruitment back up in the summer, which ignited Wisconsin’s interest.

”Committing the first time showed me what I needed to know,” said Williams. “I think it made me realize that I needed to be more serious about the whole process, and I needed to look more into everything. I needed to build relationships, learn about schools and the offenses.”

Now with Williams in the fold, what should fans expect him to bring to this squad when he hits campus?

“I’ll bring mentality to do everything I possibly can to be the best I can be,” said Williams. “I’ll always put team first and aim to be a leader later on and get us to a national championship. I’m a very physical back, a little different than Melvin (Gordon), but can bring the same, if not more production. I know I’ll be the next good Badger back.”

Becoming the first commit in the class, Williams looks to be the ring leader in getting many others to join the fold and has already been targeting one of the best to block for him.

“I’ve already been doing that (laughter), but there’s a couple of guys I’ve been talking to,” said Williams. “I’ll start even harder after today. (Hartland Arrowhead offensive lineman) Ben Bredeson is the main one right now.”

How does it feel to finally be committed and a Badger now?

“The best feeling in the world,” said Williams. “All I want to do now is be the best high school player I can be.”

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