Richard Davenport covers recruiting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He is the host of Recruiting Thursday, a weekly radio show that airs from 7 to 8 p.m. on 92.1 FM in Fayetteville; 93.7 FM in Little Rock; 95.3 FM in Fort Smith; 96.3 FM in Hot Springs; 104.3 FM in Harrison/Mountain Home; and 106.9 FM in Arkadelphia.
New LB shaped by adversity
Linebacker Josh Williams spent time at Dodge City Community College prior to committing to Arkansas.
Second in a series profiling newcomers to the Arkansas football team
Arkansas outside linebacker signee Josh Williams arrived on campus Thursday, but the journey to Fayetteville wasn't an easy one.
"My grandmother raised me from 6 years old because my mother passed when I was 5 and my dad was never in my life," Williams said.
The early childhood challenges helped shape him into someone much wiser than most 19 year olds. His grandmother, Mildred Wilcher, stressed academics and treating people right.
"I'm not the type of kid to get in trouble, I'm more humble because I didn't have a mom.," Williams said. "I don't know how that feels to be raised by a mom or even have a dad in the house."
Williams, 6-2, 240, 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash, was one of two late signees for the Hogs. He signed with the Razorbacks on May 24. He had dreamed of playing major college football, but didn't make a qualifying ACT score until April of his senior year.
"Florida State and Wake Forest told me you have this offer, but you have to get the test scores up," Williams said of some of his options around the 2013 signing day.
He eventually landed at Dodge City Community College in Kansas because one of his coaches had a contact at the junior college.
He led Dodge City with 85 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 2 recovered fumbles and earned honorable mention all-conference. During the spring evaluation period, offensive line coach Sam Pittman visited the school and discovered Williams was eligible to play at a four-year school in the fall.
"He saw my grades and my highlight [video] and everything and he made it happen," Williams said.
Williams played defensive end at 195 pounds and recorded 50 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 6 sacks as a senior at Fort Lauderdale, (Fla.) Dillard. He played linebacker as a junior and had 50 tackles and 3 sacks.
"I was playing football, but I wasn't thinking about the next level," Williams said of his junior season.
Arkansas senior associate head coach and linebacker coach Randy Shannon said Williams' maturity can be attributed to the adversity he's faced.
"He's done a lot of good things in his life, but the situations and things that happened in his past made him a strong person and it tells you a lot about his character too," Shannon said.
When Williams appeared on the Hogs' radar, Shannon called linebacker signee Randy Ramsey, who was teammates with Williams at Dillard.
"He said 'Coach he's the hardest-working person I know,'" Shannon said. "'When he comes home I look up to him. When he was here with me working out I thought I wanted to be a guy like him. He works hard and never quits, a guy that always sustains and stays focus and he said coach I want to be that way.'"
It wasn't until the spring evaluation period of his junior year did he realize he might play college football.
"I had a lot of colleges coming through looking at me, but they didn't throw out an offer to me," he said. "They said they would take a look at me during the season."
He had several options, including Illinois State after receiving his test score in April, but opted for junior college so he could increase his stock with bigger schools. His decision paid off in the spring when others began to pursue him.
"I had a few schools like South Alabama, Colorado and Louisiana-Lafayette offering me to leave right now like Arkansas did," he said. "I wanted to wait because I knew I could get a better school."
Williams said his family is on board with his decision after talking to one of his coaches at Dillard about Coach Bret Bielema.
"He was telling them he's nice man and he's recruited players at Dillard High School, and he knows him personally and Josh is going to play under a good coach," Williams said.
He played last season at 205 pounds, but packed on 35 pounds in about two months earlier this year. He added the extra bulk by an intense workout plan and eating better along with a good dose of peanut butter.
"I was actually mixing peanut better with my protein [shakes]," he said. "Two in the morning and two at night before bed."
Sports on 06/21/2014