LINCOLN, Neb. — Getting to Nebraska was a bit of a whirlwind for junior wide receiver Mike Williams.
It all started when coach Scott Frost called him on Jan. 7 — a Sunday — to make an offer.
“After that, it was pretty quick,” Williams said after practice Tuesday. “I took three days to talk it over with my family and it was a pretty easy decision.”
Williams committed to Nebraska three days after the offer. He enrolled the same day, and started classes in Lincoln one day later.
Frost signed five junior college athletes in the 2018 recruiting class. It was quite a change from his predecessor. Mike Riley didn’t put much emphasis on junior college recruits in his three years with Nebraska. For these five athletes, though, the journeys have made their arrivals even sweeter.
Williams, for example, was originally committed to Tennessee-Martin out of high school. Eight days before National Signing Day 2016, he de-committed. Georgia Southern then offered the night before signing day.
After a freshman season with Eagles, Williams found himself wanting something bigger. As spring workouts began at Georgia Southern, the feeling that there was more out there grew stronger. Those feelings — and a Twitter direct message from East Mississippi Community College’s recruiting director — ultimately led Williams to the small Mississippi town of Scooba.
“It was definitely tough,” Williams said. “I actually had to talk my parents into agreeing with me to do it. Once they agreed, it kind of made me feel better about the decision and people stuck behind me and it made it easier.”
Williams quickly became the leading receiver for coach Buddy Stephens’ East Mississippi team with 30 catches for 669 yards and 7 touchdowns. He helped the Lions to an 11-1 record and a 2017 National Junior College Athletic Association national title.
It wasn’t easy going, though. Williams had a scholarship and a guaranteed spot on EMCC’s active roster, but he still had plenty to prove. By the end of the 2017 season, Williams had learned a valuable lesson about junior college football.
“Be humble,” Williams said. “JUCO humbles you a lot and it makes you appreciate football more than you did before you came to JUCO.”
Williams also had to learn to adjust to small-town life. The small Mississippi town is home to 697 people. While Williams’ hometown of Lake City, Fla., boasts more than 12,000, it was only an hour from Jacksonville and less than two from Tallahassee. There was plenty to do in Florida.
Even Statesboro, Ga. — home of Georgia Southern — has more than 31,000 residents. There was plenty to do in Florida and Georgia.
“There’s really nothing to do,” Williams said. “There’s two gas stations and a Subway and Dollar General. That’s pretty much it.”
With little entertainment and night life, Williams’ focused solely on football. He had bigger plans, and he had put them into motion when he left Georgia Southern for EMCC.
Now that he’s at Nebraska, Williams is adjusting. It had always been his dream to be a wide receiver at a Power 5 program, and that dream is now a reality.
That doesn’t mean Williams’ work will stop. He’s putting the time in to learn Frost’s offense, which has been an adjustment. He’s picking it up though, slowly but surely.
Williams has also been putting his time into the classroom. He even proudly boasts about having all As and only one B right now.
He knows his journey to Lincoln wasn’t conventional. But Frost and his coaching staff have made all the difference. He’s grateful for that.
“It’s been pretty smooth because of the coaches, of course,” Williams said. “I like the coaches a lot. They’re real smooth and they make it easy for me.”
And if you catch Williams sporting an East Mississippi jacket, you may be inclined to ask about the Netflix documentary Last Chance U. The documentary featured the Lions’ 2015 and ’16 seasons before Williams arrived on campus.
That wasn’t why he was there, though. East Mississippi was a part of his journey, but it wasn’t his final stop.
“I wasn’t there for the show,” Williams said. “I was there to succeed and help the team and get where I wanted to go.
“Which is here.”