Cameron Williams’ recruitment was redirected by two minutes of tape.
Two minutes and four seconds, to be specific. When he reluctantly published the highlight on March 3, 2018, Williams — now an early enrollee freshman at Washington — still considered himself a quarterback. After all, he had been the starting varsity signal-caller for the previous two seasons at Bakersfield (Calif.) High School. Heck, he even earned a scholarship offer from Rich Rodriguez to play quarterback at Arizona prior to his sophomore season.
It’s true, the 6-foot, 185-pound soon-to-be high school senior also dabbled on defense. But his future was under center.
Right up until it wasn’t.
Right up until, on a whim, Williams posted a video on Hudl.com of his junior season safety highlights. The first three clips were interceptions — a leaping two-handed snag on a redirection; a one-handed stab while tapping his toes along the sideline, before barreling out of bounds; and a crossing route he sniffed out, intercepted and took back for another 20 yards. He confidently corralled a running back in the open field. He burst into the backfield, punched the football free and returned it untouched for a 52-yard touchdown.
He did it all in the first 45 seconds of tape.
And the surprising response was almost equally quick.
“He put it out there,” Cameron’s father, Edgar Williams, told The Times last weekend. “He went from like four offers to 20 offers in about two weeks. Everything was just booming.”
Edgar might be exaggerating, but just barely. Before the tape’s release, his son’s only Power Five scholarship offers were from Arizona and Arizona State.
After? UCLA, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, Colorado, USC, Florida, Nebraska, Utah, Oklahoma and Tennessee all came calling.
As a response, Cameron requested to exclusively play safety for his seven-on-seven team in the summer prior to his senior season. He starred on both sides as a senior at Bakersfield, switching between quarterback and safety without taking a series off.
But while he was still technically the starting quarterback for the Bakersfield Drillers last fall, Cameron Williams’ mind was suddenly set on a future in the secondary.
“(The offers) just started coming and coming and coming. It was crazy,” Edgar Williams said with a laugh. “I was like, ‘OK, I guess you’re a safety now.’”
Chris Petersen certainly is happy Cameron’s recruitment took a defensive turn. Earlier this month, the sixth-year Huskies head coach declared “there’s been nobody that I’ve been more impressed with than Cam Williams.”
And last week, Petersen expounded on that assessment.
“We really like how Cam is progressing, and I just like his mindset for a guy who should be in high school right now,” Petersen said. “That’s one thing that always gets my attention, when those guys consistently show up with a really focused mindset. There’s a lot of our players who have been here for a couple years who can’t show up every day with that urgency and that focused mindset.
“That’s really what I’ve been saying that jumps out to me about Cam.”
It has jumped out so much, in fact, that the former four-star prospect lined up as a starting safety Monday in his first spring on campus. In the Huskies’ oft-utilized nickel package, Williams was slotted beside junior Brandon McKinney, with versatile senior Myles Bryant sliding back to his familiar nickelback spot.
Still, defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake cautioned Monday against April assumptions. The Huskies use the spring to experiment with different lineups, and a starter on April 22 might not crack the rotation in September. Don’t forget, either, that a pair of enticing options — injured redshirt freshman Julius Irvin and four-star freshman Asa Turner — will be added to the mix this fall.
All things considered, Cameron Williams has made a formidable first impression.
Now he needs to make it last.
“We really like how he’s working in all the special-teams stuff, all of our defensive stuff. But it’s very early,” Lake said. “We’re going into our fourth week of spring football. But I’m very proud of him. He’s working every day. He meets with myself and (assistant defensive backs coach Will) Harris a ton extra, on top of all of our meetings.
“He’s showing up and making plays. But we still have a long way to go.”
That’s actually not true of April practice, with the Huskies’ spring preview — which is open to the public — looming Saturday. That will serve as another opportunity for Williams to separate himself from the (albeit limited) competition. Washington must replace departed safety starters Taylor Rapp and JoJo McIntosh this fall. But, besides Williams, there are only a handful of Huskies — Bryant, McKinney, junior Isaiah Gilchrist and converted wide receiver Alex Cook — currently practicing at the position.
That could mean more meaningful scrimmage snaps for Williams, who as a first-year player is not available to the media this season. Still, don’t expect many complaints; on Saturday, Edgar lovingly described his oldest son as “quiet as heck.”
To this point, at least, his tape has done the talking.
And after this fall, he might have more than two minutes to show.
“He’s not overwhelmed,” Petersen said. “There’s a lot of new things coming at him, and he’s just locked in, getting extra work when he can in between class, extra tape time and all that, and he just keeps battling.
“To me, that’s one of the keys to early success and success in general, when you can bring it like that. You just see it a mile away. It’s just a matter of time. So he’s trying to accelerate that timeline, but he’s off to a good start.”