Downers Grove South senior running back Josh Williams is constantly dealing with questions about his size and his recruitment.
At 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds, Williams isn’t the biggest of backs. But when it comes to production, there haven’t been many better in the state this season. He’s rushed for 1,642 yards and 24 touchdowns, averaging more than 10 yards a carry in seven games.
Despite those numbers, it appears his physical measurements have mattered most to colleges. FBS and FCS schools haven’t come calling, and Division III schools are his best options at this point.
While those are the topics he’s asked about most, they’ve rarely been on Williams’ mind otherwise this season. After missing the bulk of the last two seasons due to ankle injuries, he’s having so much fun just being on the field and winning that the rest seems trivial to him.
“I’m enjoying it so much,” said Williams, who is the ESPNChicago.com Player of the Week. “It’s been so much fun with my teammates. It’s so much fun to be able to do what we’re doing, being 7-0. It’s fun being with great friends.
“I’m being very patient [with recruiting.] That’s important in this process. Some people want to give up. If I wait it out, continue to stay strong and not worry about the end result, everything will work out.”
Much of Williams’ mental strength comes from his religious background. His father is a pastor, and he was taught to put his faith in God. It’s worked for him so far.
When Williams suffered ankle injuries as a sophomore and junior and had to sit out a total of nine games, he turned to God and found the guidance he needed.
“Having that faith, knowing everything would be good, it’s all a mindset for you to look past it or continue to dwell on it,” Williams said.
Williams focused on the future. Following his second ankle injury, he took the weight room and made sure both ankles were as strong as they could be to help prevent another setback.
Williams hasn’t dealt with any ankle problems this season. He’s been hitting holes, making cuts and breaking away from defenders as well as he ever has.
Downers Grove South coach John Belskis has been impressed.
“He cuts at a speed I don’t think a lot of running backs have,” Belskis said. “I’m dating myself, but running back Lydell Mitchell from the Colts said he wasn’t the fastest back in the league, but he was the same speed in every direction. Josh is 4.5 ahead, 4.5 to the side, 4.5 backward. You can’t get a solid hit on him. He also has the ability to run over you. He’s an explosive, power back.”
Williams’ older brother Scottie also starred at Downers Grove South and was under-recruited. He is now a junior running back at Elmhurst College and has rushed for 651 yards in five games this season.
Belskis was sure Williams could play college football. He just wasn’t positive at what level yet.
“We’ll find out that soon enough,” Belskis said. “There’s a coach who is going to be awfully happy to have him. He probably doesn’t know that yet.”
Williams’ numbers are undeniable. He ran for 336 yards and three touchdowns in the season opener against South Elgin. He ran for 282 yards and six touchdowns on 12 carries against Leyden. He went for 200-plus yards against Downers Grove North and Proviso East.
Williams is pleased with his season, but he’s nowhere close to being satisfied.
“I do feel as if I showcased some of my ability,” Williams said. “You can never become content. That allows a player to become lazy and not achieve higher goals. That’s one thing I’ve focused on. I want to continue to do great things.”