The three years Jamyest Williams plans to spend on South Carolina’s football team would be the longest he’s ever been in one uniform. When Williams arrives on campus at the end of this month, he’ll have four years of eligibility in front of him, but he can’t see his story staying in Columbia for that long before the next chapter begins in the NFL.
“Honestly, I try not to think about it, but I do think about it at the same time because I know that I’m gifted,” Williams told The State. “I feel like there is a reason that all this is happening. I wouldn’t have this big-time ESPN name for no reason.”
Williams’ name has been splashed across ESPN and recruiting boards for years. He is a four-star cornerback prospect from Grayson, Ga., who is the most highly regarded prospect in the Gamecocks 2017 signing class. He is frank that he believes it is his destiny to be playing professional football by 2020.
“I have earned all the offers that I have and all coaches respect me and that means they see something in me,” Williams said. “I just have to have that mindset that I can go in there and do that and I’m trying to graduate in three years, also. I’m gifted. I’m just trying to take care of my family, too.”
At this point, the thought of staying in one place too long is impossible for Williams to consider. He’s been chasing the game for so long and to so many places that slowing down now would feel wrong.
Williams started playing football before he turned 5, and has played for five youth league teams, two middle school teams and three high school teams since. In his seventh grade year, Williams was playing for the Hilsman Middle School team in Athens, Ga., and a Gwinnett Football League youth team in Lilburn, Ga., 50 miles apart during the same season.
“I just came to practice when I could, probably once or twice a week,” he said.
With his talent, that was enough. After playing almost every position on the field as a youngster, Williams settled into his role at cornerback his freshman year at Duluth High School.
“I was really making plays in practice, and my coach said I could really play it, so he threw me out there with the older guys freshman year, third or fourth game,” Williams said. “It went great. I got a pick against Norcross back when they were a powerhouse.”
He then transferred to Archer High School for two seasons and then finally to Grayson High School for his senior season. Williams and the Rams won Georgia’s Class AAAAA state title last year. During the season, he verbally committed to the Gamecocks and stayed true to that pledge despite a late push from Georgia. He signed with South Carolina in February and immediately becoming the star of the 2017 signing class.
The pressure of being the “face” of the newcomers doesn’t bother Williams, he said.
“I don’t really feel much pressure at all. It’s exciting to me honestly,” he said. “It’s a blessing to be able to go in as one of the top-rated guys because that means I’ve got a lot of expectations, and I’ve always had expectations growing up. Every team I’ve played for growing up, I’ve always been that guy, and I’ve always felt like I had to put the team on my back. This is just another stepping stone to do that.”
It’s ironic that the biggest weight falls on the smallest member of the signing class. At 5-foot-9, 174 pounds, Williams is used to having his size be a topic of conversation.
“That’s why I really just try to work as hard as I can. Small guys have to work harder because we don’t have the same gifts as taller guys,” he said. “We have our gifts. I’m fast and quick as stuff. I just have to work harder than the next person because only the strong survive.”
He tries to emulate his game after Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu, a college star at LSU despite being 5-9.
“I always had the dog in me, the competitiveness in me,” Williams said. “I wasn’t going to let anyone outwork me. I always had the mentality that I’m better than you.”
Earl Williams, the owner of Georgia Sports Performance, where Williams is training until he enrolls at South Carolina at the end of his month, can attest to that.
“He always comes to get better,” Earl Williams said. “You can tell he’s on a journey for greatness. You see athletes come along every year the majority of them are not like that at all. They want to train at a certain level and let everything else happen.
“This young man is not waiting on anything to happen. He’s going after it. He wants to be the best at everything he does.”
South Carolina coach Will Muschamp is hesitant to say he thinks Jamyest Williams will contribute to his team right away, but that’s the expectation of everyone else, including Jamyest Williams.
“It’s a building process,” Williams said. “We are doing nothing but going up, and I feel like that’s what’s about to happen. We have a lot of doubters, and I feel like God is about to bless us with some amazing things.”