March 4, 2014 10:28:20 AM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
CRAWFORD -- Jimmie Williams felt the need to accelerate his son's recruitment.
"We tracked down coach (Kenny) Jackson like a dog,"Jimmie Williams said. "Our first experience was so positive. We wanted it for Justin as well. We are excited it all got worked out."
Justin Williams, a standout football, basketball, and track performer at East Oktibbeha County High School signed his National Letter of Intent to play football at Northeast Mississippi Community College. The signing came less than a month after Northeast coach Ricky Smither added Jackson to his staff as defensive line coach.
Jimmie Williams, Jr., played four years ago for Jackson when he was an assistant coach at Itawamba C.C. Now the second of Jimmie Williams, Sr.'s two sons, Justin, will follow in his older brother's footsteps and play for Jackson in the nation's best junior college football league.
"I am exciting about getting up there and really concentrating on defense because I have always liked giving out the pain," Williams said. "The coaches have been on me to make sure I stay in the books and finish my last semester strong.
"Once I get to Northeast, it is all about working hard in the weight room, working on my weight, and being ready to go when the season gets here."
East Oktibbeha first-year coach John Davis figured out quickly Williams was his premier player. Williams backed up those thoughts by being a leader in the weight room and on the practice field and on game nights.
"He was our go-to guy in every sense of the word," Davis said. "He really enjoyed playing football and he enjoyed playing here. It takes a special person to rise above some of our challenges. Justin responded from the first day."
Mississippi High School Activities Association placed East Oktibbeha County High and West Oktibbeha County High on probation last school year because of underperformance on standardized testing. It appears both school will be consolidated into the Starkville School District. That situation contributed to East Oktibbeha winning only one game in 2013. Still, Williams responded with 895 rushing yards and six touchdowns. On defense, Williams had 105 tackles, including two games with 20 or more.
"Every team had like two players on him," said Annie Williams, Justin's mother. "I am really proud of what he was able to accomplish. He worked really hard to become a special player."
Williams said his parents instilled that work ethic in him at an early age. It was fostered by watching his brother play on the next level. While others left East Oktibbeha or chose not to play, Williams did the opposite, overcoming the adversity to become a standout.
"Playing here was special," William said."We didn't win as many games as I wanted, but I wouldn't trade anything that happened. It was a special time. I really wish I could play more. But there comes a time when you have to move on and see what you can do."
Davis was fearful Williams would be overlooked since the squad played in rural Oktibbeha County and was limited to an eight-game regular-season schedule due to the sanctions.
"Northeast got a really good one," Davis said. "I think Justin kind of defied the odds. This will be a great opportunity for him. He will be able to get on a weight training program and coach Jackson (his position coach) will get him ready to contribute right away.
"They are getting a player who will listen and who will work hard. Sometimes, when you are the underdog like this, you cherish the opportunity more. I think he can become a special player."
Jimmie Williams, Sr., knew he had a special player on his hands years ago. It was a just a matter of the timing being right for the next opportunity.
Jackson played at Hinds C.C. and later coached eight seasons in the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior College ranks. He played at Ole Miss and in the NFL and in the Arena Football League before he coached for seven seasons at ICC and another at Hinds.
Still, Jackson left coaching after the 2010 season to concentrate on camps and public speaking. In February, Smither called Jackson and asked him to come back to coaching. Williams, Sr. then called Jackson and asked if he could take a chance on his second son.
"It all worked out nicely," Williams Sr. said. "We are all excited."
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Scott is sports copy editor and reporter