The Prospector: Evans' OT and USF commit Darrell Williams knew nothing about football when he moved from Jamaica in '08

Evans senior OT has had meteoric rise to the top

Darrell Williams of Orlando Evans has committed to USF.

Darrell Williams of Orlando Evans has committed to USF. (ORLANDO SENTINEL PHOTO)

Orlando Evans offensive tackle Darrell Williams committed to the University of South Florida last week to play football.

That's not how it was supposed to be for the kid from Jamaica.

"I came here my ninth grade year. I thought I was going to be the next great basketball player," Williams said Sunday, recalling his move to the States from Kingston, Jamaica. "But when I got here I saw that all the basketball players were like 6-8 or 6-9 and so I knew I had to do something else to go to college."

So he chose football. Well, OK, former Evans football coach Greg Thompson chose it for him; talked him into joining the team.

"Coach Thompson said come to football, come to football and at first I didn't want to do it because I never had done it," Williams said. "He just persuaded me."

Williams hated it. He did anything he could to skip practice. Made up excuses. Lied to the coaches.

"That was a difficult task, with him being a tall kid, everyone wanted him to play basketball and learn the game of basketball or play soccer," Thompson said. "He made up a few excuses."

Until the day he ran into Thompson at Wal-Mart after having told the coach he could not make a weight session because he was going out of town.

"He caught me in a lie right there," Williams said. "I didn't really like football. I tried to find every excuse in the book."

But he was caught, red-handed, in front of his father Donovan Williams. Thompson, however, didn't rat him out.

"He was embarrassed because he was so weak when he got here," Thompson said. "So he made up a big story (to get out of weight training) about going out of town with his father. Then that Saturday morning I walked into Wal-Mart and the first person I saw was him and his father. I didn't let on to his father that he was being dishonest, but I told him if he ever did that again, I would let his father know. He never missed another day."

The stereotype for Jamaican athletes is that most of them are fast. Williams laughs at that notion.

"They don't think that when they see me," Williams said. "When I came here I was … well, I'll go ahead and say it. I was fat. I never lifted. I was about 6-3, 260 pounds and couldn't even do 10 push ups. They never thought I was fast."

Maybe not physically. But Thompson can't remember a faster learner, not to the level that Williams has risen.

"We stayed with him till we got him convinced that he could get his education paid for. I think that was the key," Thompson said of Williams, who is now 6-foot-5, 245 pounds. "Now his bench press is well over 300 (pounds). He couldn't dunk a basketball when he got here, but he doesn't have a problem with that now. He's just a great kid. He's going to do well in college."

He came to the States to live with his father. His mom Dawnette Lloyd figured there were more opportunities for education. Mom was right.

"She's happy for me, but she's still on me with the grades," Williams said. "She's glad I'm getting a scholarship so she doesn't have to pay for anything. I have a 3.0 GPA, and for the NCAA (Clearing House) the only thing left to do is send my SAT scores. The academic advisor (at USF) said I am on track for admission."

It was a quick rise to the top for Williams, yet it did seem like a long road.

"It took a lot of work to get where I am today … a lot of work," Williams said. "Between all the seniors playing on the team this year, I was the worst when I got here … I didn't know anything."

Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at chays@orlandosentinel.com>.
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