We’re told to trust our first instincts, and in Antonio Williams’ case, they turned out to be right.
It just took him awhile to follow them.
The former North Stanly High star originally committed to play college football at North Carolina before changing his mind and signing with Ohio State. Now, after two seasons with the Buckeyes, Williams has decided to come full circle and transfer to UNC for the remainder of his career.
“I wasn’t playing as much as I thought I could be or should be,” he said. “Things just weren’t working out the way I wanted them to. I had a few options to choose from, knowing that I wanted to go elsewhere. Of course, Carolina was at the top of my list. Everything worked out in that way, and I was able to come back home.”
Williams was considered a four-star prospect after putting together three straight 2,000-yard seasons for the Comets, rushing for 7,999 yards and averaging 178.8 yards per game while scoring 81 touchdowns.
Ranked No. 6 nationally among running backs by Rivals in the Class of 2016, Williams also briefly pledged to Wisconsin after backing off from his commitment to UNC.
Despite those credentials and his early enrollment, the 5-foot-11, 210-pound junior was never able to find a regular role in a crowded Ohio State backfield that also includes 1,400-yard rusher J.K. Dobbins and top backup Mike Weber. Williams ran for 318 yards and three touchdowns on 63 carries as a Buckeye, including 290 yards on 57 carries in 2017.
He had 47 yards and a touchdown on five carries while helping the Gray team to a 37-14 win in Ohio State’s spring game on April 14, shortly before announcing his decision to transfer.
“He had a good experience at Ohio State,” North Stanly coach Scott Crisco said. “The timing just wasn’t right for him.”
Williams will have two years of eligibility remaining with the Tar Heels and will likely have to sit out next season under NCAA transfer rules, although he has applied for a hardship that would allow him to play right away.
He said that his chances of that are about 50-50.
Regardless of when he is able to get onto the field, Williams will add another offensive weapon to a unit that struggled last year on the way to a 3-9 record because of inexperience and a rash of injuries that decimated UNC’s receiving corps and offensive line.
Williams said he has already made contact with several of his new teammates, including defensive back Myles Dorn and fellow running back Michael Carter, and is looking forward to playing in coach Larry Fedora’s wide-open style.
“I’m a believer in Carolina football,” said Williams, who is set to begin summer classes in Chapel Hill next month. “I’ve seen it throughout my recruiting process, I’ve seen the success they’ve had. With all those injuries from last year, how good can a team be with that many guys hurt.
“I’m excited about Carolina football. The best part is the staff. They know how to produce and know what they need to do to be one of the top teams in the ACC just about every year.”
Williams’ high school coach said that his former star has what it takes to be a major part of the Tar Heels’ resurgence.
“He is an awesome runner, one of the best running backs I’ve ever seen,” Crisco said. “As good of a running back as he is, his work ethic is what got him to where he’s at. He’s a gym rat. He lives in the weight room, lives on the practice field. Everything he does is about football.”