Liz Seitz isn’t sure she should share this story. But to understand the insanity that surrounded her son’s world for 11 days in December, she decides it’s worth noting.
Bryson Williams, a 6-foot-2, 300-pound defensive tackle from Lincoln, Neb., had been committed to Wisconsin’s football program for nearly five months. Even though he starred on the high school football field in the shadows of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium, he didn’t earn a scholarship offer from Cornhuskers coach Mike Riley.
Williams wasn’t thrilled with that development, but he was content with Wisconsin. He had a plan and was ready to make it official Dec. 20 during the early signing period and enroll in school a few weeks later.
And then, everything changed on Dec. 3.
Scott Frost was hired from UCF to replace Riley and introduced as Nebraska’s new coach. He wasted little time in visiting Williams and offered a scholarship that night.
Cue the madness.
“I knew it was going to be huge in the community,” Seitz told Land of 10. “I grew up in Nebraska. I’m from here. So I know how the fans are and how committed they are to the program and how much they want every single Nebraska kid to come to Nebraska. I knew when that happened how crazy it was going to get. I don’t know if Bryson had an idea of how intense it was going to get.
“I was happy when he got the offer because I had felt for years that he deserved an offer to Nebraska. But at the same time, I was like, ‘Oh boy, we better buckle up because this is about to get real interesting.’ And it did.”
Everywhere Seitz went, from the gas station to the grocery story, folks around Lincoln shared the same inquiries. People tried calling Williams’ grandfather to gain information on his decision-making process. But the most-bizarre interaction occurred when someone recognized Seitz in a public restroom and bombarded her with questions.
What’s Bryson going to do? Is he going to flip to Nebraska?
“I literally went, ‘What is happening right now? Can we talk about this later?’ ” Seitz recalled. “I came out and I texted. We have a family group text between myself and the kids. I texted to the family group text and I said, ‘A line has just been crossed. This is not all right. Bryson, we need to make an announcement.’ ”
Williams had a previous relationship with Frost, who offered him a scholarship while at UCF. And although Williams was on a time crunch to make a college decision before he enrolled the following month, he knew he had to take this offer seriously.
“It was pretty crazy when Coach Frost offered,” Williams said. “It mixed things up a little bit. A lot of thinking went into it because I wasn’t accepting any type of recruiting or offers from any other school besides those recruiting me in the past, like Coach Frost. When they came in, we talked. He gave me a lot to think about.”
Williams weighed both options as he received multiple visits from coaches at both programs, including Badgers defensive line coach Inoke Brekterfield and coach Paul Chryst. He then revealed his decision Dec. 14 via Twitter. Ultimately, he reaffirmed his commitment to Wisconsin by saying he wanted to be remembered as “a man of my word.”
“Honestly, that was a huge reason,” Williams said. “In the end, it really does come down to that. The relationships I formed with the coaches throughout the summer, you can’t really just put those to the side out of nowhere like that.”
Six days later, Williams signed with Wisconsin. He will arrive on campus Jan. 15 and begin classes the following week, with spring football just around the corner.
— Bryson Williams (@brysonjw_18) December 20, 2017
Williams is among a handful of freshmen who could have an opportunity to contribute immediately for the Badgers. He’ll play nose guard and could serve as Olive Sagapolu’s backup next season and then take over as the starter in 2019.
“If it happens, then I’m excited,” Williams said. “That’s kind of what I’m trying to do. But Coach Brekterfield told me that if I’m not ready then, he’s not going to waste a year on me. That’s perfectly acceptable with me. I wouldn’t want a year of mine wasted, either.”
As fate would have it, Williams received his Nebraska offer one week before he was scheduled to take an official visit to Wisconsin, alongside 16 of the team’s other committed players in the 2018 recruiting class. Williams and his mom each said that weekend trip served to strengthen bonds with future teammates and coaches and make his decision easier.
“For me, it was big,” Seitz said. “I had been up there for a few unofficials with him to some different games. I always felt like I was trying to make myself picture him there. Like if I could really see him there. Because it was a short trip. You come in, you go to the game, you come home, that type of thing.
“But this trip when I went with him, I just sat back and watched him those three days and I saw him being himself, and he looked comfortable and happy. On Day 2, I said, ‘This is where he needs to go. This is a good fit for him.’ That’s the time I felt most comfortable with his decision to go there.”
Bryson Williams’ senior season highlights
Williams is a 3-star prospect who is ranked as the No. 65 defensive tackle in the country, according to the 247Sports composite. He finished his senior season with 77 tackles and 3 sacks. He also was used in short-yardage goal-line scenarios on offense and scored 4 touchdowns. When the season ended, the Omaha World-Herald ranked Williams as the No. 1 defensive tackle in the state — ahead of Masry Mapieu, a Nebraska commit who earned the Cornhuskers offer from Riley instead of Williams.
Ryan Gottula, Williams’ high school football coach at Lincoln Southeast, described him as an unselfish player who developed into a true leader on the practice field and in the weight room during his senior season.
“I think he’s got a very strong work ethic that’s going to help him as soon as he gets on campus,” Gottula said. “He understands what it’s going to take from him throughout the offseason and just learning a new scheme and getting himself prepared to play at that level.
“He’s also a very versatile kid that can play maybe a few different spots on the defensive line depending on what they need and where he’s going to fit best in their scheme. He’s got a great attitude going into that, which is going to give him a chance to contribute hopefully before too long.”
After a whirlwind couple weeks, Williams is eager to settle in at Wisconsin and begin carving out a path for himself.
“My plan is to get to Madison and work harder than I ever have in my life,” Williams said. “That’s kind of what my plan is right now. Not even just athletic-wise. I want to be academic Big Ten, any type of things like that. I just want to outwork everybody like I’ve been doing.”