The first player from the Class of 2018 to commit to the University of Kansas football program, running back Anthony “Pooka” Williams took a couple extra days in the December early signing period to contemplate making that choice official.
In the end, Williams stuck to the pledge he made more than 10 months earlier, announcing Friday morning at a ceremony near his hometown of Boutte, La., he would become a Jayhawk, while penning his name to the official paperwork.
Rated a three-star prospect by Rivals, the Hahnville High standout chose KU, despite efforts from LSU and Nebraska — his other finalists — to sway his decision.
Williams carried Hahnville all the way to Louisiana’s Class 5A title game before the team’s run ended with a loss to Zachary.
During his electrifying senior season, Williams rushed for 3,118 yards and 37 touchdowns. In the playoffs alone (five games), Williams produced just under 1,400 yards and scored 14 touchdowns.
Four-star New Orleans cornerback Corione Harris, who signed with KU two days earlier, attended Williams' signing, as did Kansas safety Mike Lee and receiver Takulve Williams, both of whom also call New Orleans home. All were recruited by the KU staff’s Louisiana native, associate head coach Tony Hull.
Both Williams and Harris helped KU surprise the recruiting world this past February, when they and other touted Louisiana prospects from the Class of 2018 committed to sign with the Jayhawks. However, they proved to be the only two from “The Boot” to follow through with those non-binding commitments.
Listed at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, Williams is considered the 11th-best all-purpose back in the country, according to Rivals. Woody Wommack, Rivals’ southeast recruiting analyst, explained why signing the Louisiana back was “huge” for Kansas.
“This is a guy who reminds me a lot of LaMichael James, if we’re talking about his skill set,” Wommack said, referencing a former four-star running back who signed with Oregon and became a second-round NFL draft pick in 2012. “He’s fast. Not the biggest guy in the world, but extremely tough. I mean, he’s a tough runner. Down the stretch of the season he had several 300-yard games in the playoffs, led his team all the way to the state championship in Louisiana, where they ended up losing in the end, because they kind of ran out of gas.
“But still, in the game I went to,” Wommack added, “he carried the ball 20, 25 times and just takes a pounding and gets up every time no matter how big the hit. Even if he’s limping around a little bit he’s going to tough it out. That’s exactly the type of guy Kansas needs — the kind of guy that can carry your offense.”
Attaining Williams’ signature on the final day of the new December early signing period made him the fifth prep in KU’s 2018 class to officially join the program. Head coach David Beaty and his staff also picked up signatures from nine junior college players and a graduate transfer.
The 15-player class will inevitably grow in February, when prospects again are allowed to sign letters of intent.
The only Kansas recruiting target who committed but has yet to sign is Blue Valley North defensive end Miles Emery.
KU football’s Class of 2018 signees
• Charles Cole (6-3, 280; DT; Butler Community College)
• Foster Dixson (6-4, 250; DE; West Los Angeles C.C.)
• Elmore Hempstead Jr. (5-11, 175; CB; Fort Scott C.C.)
• Elijah Jones (6-1, 175; CB; Ellsworth C.C.)
• Azur Kamara (6-4, 225; DE; Arizona Western College)
• Jeremiah McCullough (6-0, 205; S; Hartnell College)
• Stephon Robinson (5-10, 170; WR; El Camino C.C.)
• Najee Stevens-McKenzie (6-3, 225; DE; ASA College)
• Davon Ferguson (5-10, 190; S; Hartnell College)
• Corione Harris (6-1, 170; CB; Landry-Walker High)
• Anthony “Pooka” Williams (5-10, 170; RB; Hahnville High)
• Nick Williams (6-8, 265; OL; Ritenour High)
• Mac Copeland (6-4, 245; OL; Wichita Collegiate)
• Jacobi Lott (6-4, 309; OL; Tascosa High)
• Mavin Saunders (6-5, 256; TE; Florida State)