On Tuesday, Nebraska’s four junior college additions that are already on campus spoke to the media for the first time.
The first of those four to commit to the Huskers was defensive back Deontai Williams, a native of Jacksonville, Florida, who took a long and winding road to Lincoln.
Williams garnered several high-level offers out of high school at Trinity Christian Academy but committed to Florida in January of 2014. Six months later, Williams flipped to Georgia. On National Signing Day of 2015, Williams flipped again and signed with Ohio.
However, Williams ultimately had to take the junior college route, signing with Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Mississippi. After two years at Jones County but only one on the field (more on that later), Williams got another offer from Florida and committed in June.
Shortly after Nebraska hired Scott Frost, Williams decommitted from the Gators again and joined Nebraska’s 2018 class as an early enrollee with three years to play.
“It’s a blessing, to be honest with you,” Williams said. “I’m glad Coach Frost gave me the opportunity to get a shot to play here. I don’t really want to talk about the other teams right now because I’m a Cornhusker now.”
Defensive backs coach Travis Fisher had already been recruiting Williams to Central Florida and the coaching staff was just as interested in recruiting him to Lincoln.
“I was going to take a visit to UCF and when I talked to Coach Frost, he was like, ‘I want you to come to Nebraska with me,’” Williams said. “I’m like, ‘All right, I’ll give Nebraska an opportunity,’ so I canceled that flight to UCF and went straight to Nebraska.”
Williams didn’t quite know what to make of Nebraska when Frost first mentioned it; his introduction to the Cornhusker State came via the big screen.
“I watched movies and stuff like ‘Children of the Corn,’ so I thought it was going to be a lot of farms,” Williams said. “It’s a small city; I like it.”
Williams said he hasn’t seen a farm since arriving in Lincoln.
Ellisville’s population is less than 5,000, a far cry from Jacksonville’s nearly 900,000. That environment turned out to be just what Williams needed.
“JUCO helped me; it helped me grow as a person,” Williams said. “It’s a small city and there’s nothing really there so I had to be by myself. When people go home and stuff, I was on the football field working, every day, to better my craft.”
Williams suffered a knee injury during his first game at Jones County that knocked him out for the season. He was granted a medical redshirt, which is why Williams has three years to plays three seasons in Lincoln.
“At first when that happened, I had to sit down and see like what God had planned for me,” Williams said. “At first I was so stubborn and so big-headed. Now look at me. Glory to God.”
Williams recovered and totaled 26 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles last year as the Bobcats put together an 8-2 season.
Now, Williams is in Lincoln and has already transformed his body thanks to Zach Duval’s strength and conditioning. Williams said he gained 20 pounds in just two months at Nebraska, jumping from 180 pounds to a “solid 200” at 6-foot-1.
Williams was one of the players mentioned by Frost during his press conference on Tuesday.
“I think we’ve got a few guys in the DB room that like to hit,” Frost said. “Hopefully they bring everybody along with them. Deontai likes to hit, Marquel Dismuke is another guy that you can tell we have to hold him back a little bit. We’re going to teach those guys to tackle the right way and we’re going to bring everybody else along with them.”
William’s hitting ability is certainly his calling card, but the safety doesn’t want to be known just as a thumper.
“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, not just a hitter.”
That being said, Williams does have to be conscientious about his actions in practice to make sure he keeps himself in check. Though the players are working in pads now, they’re still not going totally live.
“I just put myself in good situations, if I was to hit somebody,” Williams said. “It’s just like a game. I’m just preparing like if I was going to tackle him. They do a good thing teaching us techniques, how to tackle somebody without hitting.”
Williams said he appreciates Fisher’s honesty within the defensive back room.
“He’s straight up with you,” Williams said. “He’s not going to beat around the bush or anything like that. He’s going to tell you what you did wrong right there. He doesn’t play favorites.”
As for the players, Williams said he’s hanging around senior safety Aaron Williams and junior cornerback Lamar Jackson.
“I like how they play,” Jackson said. “I’m just trying to learn from those guys, pick their brains.”
Once JoJo Domann is cleared to return and all of the newcomers arrive on campus, safety should be one of the deepest position groups on the team, and the Huskers are hoping that competition will get the most out of the players.
“You always want to compete, you always want to make somebody better,” Williams said. “If you see him doing bad or you see him not playing to his full potential, you want him to get better because that’s bettering the team. Like say if you get hurt and the next guy has to step in, he has to be ready.”
Williams’ Twitter handles is @IWILLSTILLRISE, and after five commitments, a junior college detour and a year on the shelf, he is finally ready to live up to that handle and make an impact at the Division I level.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.