Two years ago, Central-Phenix City wide receiver E.J. Williams had Justyn Ross as a teammate. Soon enough, Ross and Williams will be together again.
Williams committed to Clemson on Saturday with his mother Vontrelle Williams and sister Kahlia Lawrence by his side. Williams made his decision at Central one day after the Red Devils’ season-opening game against Hoover.
Williams is in line to become the third Central player at Clemson, joining Ross and defensive back Ray Thornton. He'll be able to graduate from Central in December.
“I felt best at Clemson. They’re producing receivers who are going to the NFL, and they’re going to the NFL and making an immediate impact,” Williams said. “Really, (committing is) a lot of stress off my shoulders. I can just be 100 percent on football now. I was a little bit worried about recruiting, but I’m not worried at all now. I’m 100 percent in. I’m a Tiger now.”
Williams has a close relationship with Ross, and he said Clemson receivers coach Jeff Scott pushed for Ross to heavily recruit Williams. Williams, however, said Ross was helpful but stayed out of trying to influence Williams' decision.
Williams said Clemson’s ability to produce NFL talent, the culture in the program, the coaching and his relationships with Scott and head coach Dabo Swinney convinced him Clemson was the place to go. He said he told the Clemson coaches Friday night about his decision.
The 6-foot-3, 188-pound Williams is considered a four-star recruit per 247 Sports’ composite ratings. Per the same metrics, he is the fourth-best player in the state of Alabama’s Class of 2020 and the 20th-best receiver in the nation.
Last year Williams was looked at as the top target to replace Ross at Central, and he did not disappoint. Williams had 40 receptions for 668 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior and had a big moment in Central’s state championship game against Thompson, reeling in a 24-yard touchdown in the third quarter of the Red Devils’ 52-7 victory.
Williams started his senior season off right Friday night, making five catches for 52 yards with one touchdown reception against the Hoover Buccaneers. His 13-yard scoring play helped give the Red Devils a 14-point lead in what wound up being a 17-14 loss.
“They’re getting a great person, first of all,” Central head coach Jamey DuBose said. “They’re getting a guy who I think still has got some upside to him. He’s yet to know how great he’s going to be … He runs really good routes. He’s got tremendous hands. I think the biggest upside of him is he’s got length. He’s got an incredible wingspan with his arms that gives him an ability to go up and get the one-on-one balls.
“I think they’re getting a tremendous talent that has a lot of upside and another kid who could be in the NFL out of here at the wide receiver position.”
Williams’ future was the focus of Saturday’s announcement, but family was just as important. In addition to his mother Vontrelle and his sister Kahlia, Williams had family from Florida in the room and his other sister, Kennedy Stewart, watching on Kahlia’s phone.
Williams also had a picture of his late father, Sgt. 1st Class Eddie Williams Sr., sitting to the left of him when he put on his camouflage Clemson hat. Saturday marked nine years to the day that Eddie Sr. passed away.
Vontrelle said she initially questioned Williams when he said he wanted to commit on Aug. 24. When Williams explained his motivation, Vontrelle was completely on board with the timing.
“He wanted it to be more than just the day his dad passed away. He wanted to give it more meaning,” Vontrelle said. “I wish he was here going through the process because he would love it. I am so proud of my son because no one knows how much he’s went through to get this point. “
Williams said he’s not intimidated about joining a stacked wide receiver corps at Clemson. While he has those plans now set, his top objective now is to get another ring for the Red Devils.
“I’m really excited just to get back to the state championship and to get another chance to play Hoover,” Williams said.