Deontai Williams’ path to Lincoln was a long one.
The sophomore safety from Jacksonville seemed all set to go to Florida. He first committed to the Gators on Jan. 9, 2014, but decommitted from them six months later and pledged Georgia.
On national signing day 2015, he surprised everyone and signed his national letter of intent to Frank Solich and the Ohio Bobcats, mainly due to academic issues.
Only to end up at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, MS.
“(Junior college) helped me,” Williams said Tuesday. “It helped me grow as a person, because (Ellisville) is a small city. There’s nothing really there. So, I had to be by myself, and when people go home and stuff, I was on the football field working everyday to better my craft.”
Williams played his first game with Jones County J.C. in September 2016. He logged four tackles and a crucial fumble recovery in the fourth quarter of a 27-25 win over top-ranked East Mississippi.
Williams got hurt in that quarter, didn’t play again the rest of the season and was granted a redshirt.
He bounced back in 2017 with 26 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles, helping the Bobcats to an 8-2 record and an appearance in the junior college playoffs.
Before that season even began, Florida threw Williams an offer in June and he accepted it.
Jones County ended its season on Nov. 4. Six days before that, Florida and head coach Jim McElwain mutually agreed to part ways. On Dec. 7, Williams decommitted from the Gators a second time.
He was all set to visit UCF in December, that is, until Scott Frost found another job.
“I was going to take a visit to UCF, and then when I talked to Scott Frost, and he was like, ‘I want you to come to Nebraska with me.’ I’m like, alright. I gave Nebraska an opportunity. So, I cancelled that flight to UCF and went straight to Nebraska.”
Williams took his official visit to Lincoln on Dec. 16. He committed the next day, and signed the dotted line on Dec. 20. He started classes at UNL on Jan. 8.
Whatever happened before was all part of a greater plan for Williams.
“It’s a blessing to be honest with you,” Williams said about his journey. “I’m glad Coach Frost gave me the opportunity to give me a shot to play here. I really don’t want to talk about the other teams right now, because I’m a Cornhusker now, so that’s all that matters.”
He’s a Cornhusker who has three years of eligibility left, and a desire to make big plays in the secondary.
“I think we have a few guys in the (defensive back) room that like to hit,” Frost said. “I know Deontai likes to hit.We’re going to teach those guys to tackle the right way, and we’re going to bring everybody else along with them.”
Williams is confident that Erik Chinander’s 3-4 system will allow him to land a big blow here and there, but he knows there’s more that’s expected of him.
“I want to be that person that does more,” Williams said. “I want to be a cover guy. I want to be versatile. I want to be moved around, and not just a hitter.”
Defensive backs coach Travis Fisher said on Saturday that Williams can play either corner, safety or even a little nickel.
“Very physical,” Fisher said of Williams. “He’s going to add a lot to us in (defending) the run game as well.”
Williams is learning quickly – he’s not in junior college anymore. This install has been fast. His decision to come to Nebraska was fast.
So fast in fact, Williams hasn’t had a chance to fully discover what the state has to offer.
It’s a place he had limited knowledge on when he first arrived.
“You watch movies and stuff like Children of the Corn, so I thought it was going to be like a lot of farms, you know what I’m saying? (Lincoln) is a small city. I like it.
“No, I haven’t seen a farm yet.”
You can contact Tommy at 402-840-5226, or you can follow him on Twitter @Tommy_KLIN.