Jordyn Williams knows a thing or two about big-time — and even “Prime Time” — football.
For his senior year of high school, the Georgia native transferred to Trinity Christian School in Cedar Hill, Texas. There, Williams’ team played a national schedule, enjoyed a game televised on ESPN, and even received coaching from a Pro Football Hall of Famer. That’s right: Deion Sanders served as Williams’ offensive coordinator last fall.
And while he knows Big Ten football is a different animal, Williams is confident that his final year of prep ball prepared him well for his move to Indiana. He already has a feel for the pressure and responsibilities that come with the work of a high-level receiver.
At IU, Williams is simply looking to play the same game he’s always played.
“One thing my pops has always told me is 100 yards is 100 yards,” Williams told reporters recently. “So wherever I go, as long as I got a football in my hands, I’m gonna make my way with it.”
Given his strong frame and high school bona fides, it feels like the 6-foot-1 Williams has the potential to be one of the gems of the 2021 recruiting class. His arrival has largely been overshadowed by some of his peers, which is understandable given the talent IU injected into its program on both signing days this past winter. The headliner of the class, quarterback Donaven McCulley of Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis, is considered by Rivals as one of the top 100 recruits in the nation. Two other incoming freshmen receivers, Jaquez Smith of Georgia and Malachi Holt-Bennett of Alabama, are also ranked higher than Williams in the 247 Sports Composite database. In Smith’s case, he’s the eighth-highest rated prospect Indiana has signed in the recruiting rankings era, per 247 Sports.
But Williams is deserving of some preseason attention, too.
Alabama coach Nick Saban thought enough of his potential to offer him a scholarship two years ago, just as Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Louisville, Maryland and others extended offers along the way, too. Williams further demonstrated he was deserving of high-level interest during his senior year at Trinity Christian this past fall when he hauled in 50 passes for 1,466 yards and 10 scores, including two touchdowns and 10 catches for 202 yards during his school’s nationally-televised game on ESPN last August.
After moving to Indiana as an early enrollee in January, Williams began his acclimation process to college ball during spring practice. Now, heading into fall camp later this summer, Williams feels he’s as prepared as possible to compete for catches during his first season with the Hoosiers.
“(Enrolling early) really put me ahead of the ball, really,” Williams said. “I could tell from the freshmen that are just now coming in, I’m ahead of them in the teaching. So it just put me ahead of the curve. It put me ahead of the game, as far as where I’m supposed to be and where coaches want me to be for the season.”
Williams also believes his background playing on a big stage has helped ease his transition to the Big Ten. A season spent learning under Sanders only broadened his development.
“One thing about working with Coach Prime, I mean, he’s just an outstanding coach from all aspects — off the field, and on the field,” Williams said. “I don’t want to say he’s just like any other coach, because he’s not. But when it comes down to business, he’s gonna handle business first. That’s what he taught and instilled in all of us. I carried it on until I got here and I’m still doing it. I just hope that with all the things he taught me over the year that I was with him and around him and my other teammates and family back at home, I just want to show people here that I still have the same mentality.”
At IU, Williams knows he’s going to be coached hard. Receivers coach Grant Heard can be a demanding instructor who doesn’t accept inconsistency on the practice field. During his first spring working with Heard, Williams got a feel for his coach’s teaching style and the areas Heard wants to work on inside the rookie’s game. With Heard, Williams says, the practice objectives are not so much about catching the ball — the expectation is that everyone at this level can do exactly that — but all of the things that need to happen before and after the pigskin lands in his hands.
“Working with Coach Heard is a whole nother ballgame,” Williams said. “He’s a great coach. He told me before I even got here, ‘I’m going to be hard on you.’ I didn’t expect it to be how it was, but I’m glad he went ahead and threw me into the fire early so now I know what to expect coming forward with the fall. ... He’s one of those sticklers about the little things.”
And whether it’s the little things or the big stage, Williams is eager to tackle it all in the coming months and years at IU. Already nearly six months into his college experience, Williams is starting to feel at home.
“The receivers that I’ve been working with, especially (Ty Fryfogle) and (Camron Buckley) and a lot of the new receivers, they all took me under their wings to show me the ropes and show me the ways of how to be one of those Big Ten receivers, how to make big plays and how to determine what route you want to go down. They all just showed me a lot and showed me a helping hand. I just really appreciate them for that.”