Wide receiver Williams hopes to make big impact at YSU
By Joe Scalzo
About 30 seconds after finishing up an interview where he promised not to joke about Andrew Williams’ hometown, Youngstown State University football coach Eric Wolford spotted Williams, put his arm around him and ... started joking about his hometown.
“I didn’t tell him [the reporter] there’s not a McDonald’s in your hometown,” Wolford said. “I didn’t tell him you guys don’t have grocery stores. They just have fruit stands and a little market place.”
Williams laughed, threw in a “c’mon” or two, but Wolford was rolling.
“Listen,” Wolford said. “They don’t even have running water. They don’t have cable. They just got the big dish. Remember those dishes from cable TV years and years ago? Those are new down there.”
For the record, Williams’ hometown of Bowman, S.C., has a grocery store and a McDonald’s.
It also has a 42-foot “UFO Welcome Center” built in a resident’s backyard. (The homemade flying saucer’s Wikipedia page — and, yes, it has one — calls it a “tourist curiosity.”) Bowman even has a website (www.bowmansc.com), which insists: “Without a doubt, Bowman is the dairy capital of South Carolina.”
What Bowman doesn’t have much of is money (30 percent live below the poverty line), space (the city is 1.2 square miles) or people (just 968 residents).
Williams was a big fish at Bethune-Bowman — he scored 53 points in one basketball game — but the pond was too small to attract recruiters, which is how Wolford was able to land the talented, but raw, 6-foot-4 receiver.
After a nondescript redshirt freshman season (he played three games, returned a couple kicks and didn’t catch a pass), Williams emerged in the second half of last season, catching 24 passes in the final seven games. In YSU’s last game, a win over Indiana State, he caught four passes for a career-best 91 yards and two TDs.
“I just wanted to step up my game and make the team better,” Williams said. “I had to learn the offense. My route running had to get better. I was an athlete on the high school level, but the talent improved at the college level and I had to adjust to it.
“I adjusted and started making plays.”
Of YSU’s receivers, Williams’ style most resembles junior Jelani Berassa, another tall, thin deep threat whose August ACL tear forced Williams into the lineup sooner than expected. Berassa is on track to return this summer — he’s watching from the sidelines during spring practice — which will help the Penguins on and off the field, Williams said.
“I look up to him,” Williams said of Berassa. “Since I came in as a freshman, he’s been teaching me the ropes and I’ve just been improving off him. Him coming back will be a big help for us.”
Williams finished last year with 27 catches for 424 yards and three TDs — and those came in just six starts.
Wolford expects even bigger things this fall.
“Andrew’s a great kid,” Wolford said. “He gets good grades, he does things the right way, he’s ‘yes, sir, no, sir.’ That’s just the type of person he is. He’s really genuine.
“The best thing is, he was just a [redshirt] freshman last year. We’ve got such high hopes for him.”