Southampton star running back looks to shine bright at all-star game
Published 7:38 am Friday, May 1, 2015
If he is one day going to play in the National Football League, former Southampton running back Coby Williams knows that this year’s Virginia High School Coaches Association All-Star Game will be the perfect time to start that journey.
“I’m looking forward to getting up there and competing against the better players from across the state,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to showcase my skills and show that I can compete with kids in 6A and 5A. There’s talent everywhere — the best of the best.”
Williams will be traveling to Liberty University this July, as area coaches selected the 5-foot-7, 170 pound star to play in the annual exhibition. Held at Arthur L. Williams Stadium on Thursday, July 9, at 7:30 p.m., the game will coincide with a week-long instructional camp for the best graduating seniors from across the state in several sports, including baseball, basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball.
“It says a lot about our program, and he is very deserving,” said Williams’ former coach, Willie Gillus. “His numbers speak for themselves, and he was one of the top rushers in the state of Virginia.”
That they do, as Williams rushed for 2,064 yards on 197 carries during his senior campaign. He scored 22 total touchdowns, four of which came in a win over rival Franklin. In that game, a 36-32 win over the Broncos, Williams rushed for 214 yards and three touchdown, and was on the receiving end of another score.
Because it sent the Indians to the playoffs, Williams said that game is the most memorable of his career.
“I really wanted to beat the Broncos,” he said.
Even with those video game-like numbers, the all-star game will pit Williams against players just as skilled — if not more so than he. But the Division II Virginia Union commit doesn’t shy away from talk of crossing the goal line several more times before his high school career is finished.
“I’m looking forward to winning the game and getting the MVP,” Williams said. “I just want to have the opportunity to get the ball in my hands and get some big runs.
“I’m going to score every time I touch the ball.”
Williams has had a knack for finding the endzone since he started playing organized football in third grade. He changed positions quite often, though, playing quarterback one season and corner and receiver the next.
That continued early into his high school career, too, as Williams played in the slot (lining up where he could run or catch the ball), backup quarterback and on defense.
“I pretty much played all over,” he said.
But when Gillus left Elizabeth City (North Carolina) State to become the head coach at Southampton, that’s when Williams found his full-time niche at running back.
“I always knew that was the position I was best at,” he said. “I showed the leadership, skills and athletic ability to be successful.
“It just clicked this year. It just went real great, and it showed on the field.”
Popping onto the scene so late in his high school career hampered Williams’ recruitment, though, and he said Virginia Union was the only school to show serious interest.
“Averett University recruited me. Norfolk State, Chowan and Methodist University, too, but I don’t think any of them were too interested.”
Virginia Union was the best option for Williams — and his teammate Russell Ballance, as well.
Ballance, who played quarterback, kicker and punter at Southampton, was also chosen by area coaches for the all-star game as an alternate, but will be unable to participate after recently undergoing surgery to repair an unspecified injury.
Williams said he is unsure if any other future Panther teammates will play in the exhibition, as the deadline to accept or decline the invite isn’t for a few weeks.
As for why Virginia Union was the best fit, he said it was because the school offers the best opportunity to further his education and to play his natural position. Williams said he is undecided on which degree to pursue, but he’s leaning toward majoring in education or business with an eye on the future.
“I’d really like to do something with sports medicine, but Virginia Union doesn’t have that program,” he said, acknowledging that he may have to go to grad school to pursue that option.
And if playing running back doesn’t pan out, Williams isn’t too concerned.
“My position coach said that they just want to see what I’m really about when I get there,” he said. “Wherever they put me, whatever road I have to take to win a championship, I’m just blessed to have the opportunity.
“My goal is to start as a freshman and win a CIAA Championship.”
If that happens, Williams wouldn’t be the first former Indian to lead his college to a conference championship. Virginia State All-American linebacker Andre Rawls, a 2010 graduate of Southampton, did so this past season.
Sure enough, it was Rawls who Williams looked up to during his days in Red and White.
“I went [to the all-star game] when I was in eighth grade, and I always said I’d play in that game,” Williams said. “Andre Rawls was there, but didn’t play, and there was another kid at Franklin who played under coach Darren Parker, too.”
With such a rich history of all-star caliber players at Southampton, Williams said it feels great to be placed among the all-time greats.
“To put the school back on the map and to take us back to when we had great teams, it’s just an honor to do this,” he said.