ANTONIO WILLIAMS SITS ON AN OLD SOFA IN orth Stanly coach Scott Crisco’s office, a place he didn’t see himself being just weeks earlier, and points across the room to one of the reasons
he’s still there.
Williams, a senior running back who has verbally commit-
ted to Wisconsin, had given serious thought to transferring
to Anson County when Comets coach Ralph Jackson left. He
even tweeted it.
But across the room from Williams, on the back of the
coach’s door, is a photo of Williams and his recreation
league football team when he was in fourth grade. Crisco
was the coach.
“I’ve been keeping that picture ever since before he got up
here,” said Crisco, who was promoted to North Stanly’s head
coach a few weeks earlier, helping Williams change his mind.
“I was the first one to give him the ball.”
Looking back, it’s hard to believe Williams was that close
to leaving. He’s only 17, but has already invested in the 1A
school’s community and history.
He coaches youth basketball in the offseason. He goes to
junior varsity and middle school football games, where he’s
every player’s hero and knows them by name.
He can recite the county records of T.A. McLendon, a
former N.C. State star, and how far away he is from joining
McLendon in the 10,000-career rushing yards club ( 6,985
yards down, 3,015 to go).
Leaving the sleepy town of New London, N.C., and coach
Crisco, someone who had been a mentor to him for years,
was too hard to do.
“There was some stuff going on with me and I made what
was a personal decision – I didn’t ask God or anything, that
was all Antonio,” Williams said. “I’ve got guys who I’ve played
with my whole life here. I can’t abandon them like that.”
A few days after Crisco was hired, Williams reversed
course. Besides, he hadn’t realized how much his parents
would’ve had to sacrifice. His sister would have to leave her
friends, his dad’s commute would be 90 minutes one-way
and his mom’s daycare would close and leave children
without a place to go. That ate at him.
“It would’ve taken a lot of unnecessary things for me to go
The 4.2-GPA student looked at things differently. Williams
down there when we have everything here,” Williams said.
“I’m just glad I’m in my right mind now.”
It’s not the first time Williams has had to reverse a
decision. After his sophomore year, he committed to
North Carolina. A few years later, his body morphed from a
175-pound sprinter to a 215-pound bulldozer.
thought about North Carolina’s system and decided it didn’t
mesh well with his downhill running skills. He decommitted
and looked at Wisconsin and Auburn.
“He would rather run over you than around you,” Crisco
He watched the 2015 Outback Bowl with delight when
said. “There were several times he probably could’ve
scored or picked up more yardage, but he cut back in to run
Williams said Auburn’s Gus Malzahn told him his 4.52-sec-
ond 40-yard dash time was “too slow” for his system.
Williams then committed to Wisconsin and grew a chip on his
shoulder the size of the Midwest.
Wisconsin beat the Tigers 34-31.
“I don’t hate anybody, I just highly dislike them,” Williams
In his freshman year, the team was 2-9. The next year it
said. “I had an Auburn fan ask me for an autograph and I
wrote ‘On Wisconsin!’ It was pretty funny.”
The goal for Williams’ senior year is simple and communi-
ty-oriented. He wants North Stanly to reach new heights.
was 9-4 and then 9-3 as a junior. The Comets are coming off
their first back-to-back playoff appearances.
The 20 wins over the last three years match the total of
the previous seven seasons.
Williams’ senior class has now been on both sides of
blowouts and gained character through each. All he wants is
to leave the program in better shape than when he arrived.
“Of course I want a state championship, but if we can’t
do it, I want my legacy to be left that we can keep building
toward that point,” Williams said.
BY J. MIKE BLAKE
Antonio Williams Reverses Course
WISCONSIN-BOUND STAR DECIDES TO STAY AT NORTH STANLY