Liberty County High School football player Jacquez Williams was surprised to learn he was named the Mike Reed Chevrolet/Coastal Courier Panther player of the year for the 2014 season.
Williams said he was humbled to have his classmates, coaching staff and dad Christopher by his side for the trophy presentation Friday. He said earning the award was validation that he is on the right track and excelling as he hoped he would.
“This is a confirmation of my talent and what I’ve done this season,” he said, smiling. “I want to thank the coaching staff for giving me the chance this year and thank my teammates like Richard (LeCounte) and Jacari (Roberts) and everyone who gave me a chance to shine on the field.”
The junior had a standout season, helping the Panthers to a 4-7 season that included a first-round playoff game. Williams rushed for 636 yards on 77 carries for five touchdowns, made 27 receptions for 400 yards and eight touchdowns. Defensively, he had 11 total tackles, including one for loss of yards, and deflected a pass. He returned two kickoffs for 49 yards.
To date, he has 934 career rushing yards with three 100-plus-yard rushing games and seven rushing TDs. He also has 43 receptions for nine touchdowns, 23 total tackles and 117 yards of kick returns in his time as a Panther.
The Liberty County team has been on the recruiting radar ever since Shadrach Thornton signed with North Carolina State in 2011 and Raekwon McMillan became regularly followed on national recruiting websites such as ESPN.com in 2013 before signing with Ohio State and having an impressive freshman year for the national-champion Buckeyes.
Many of the top scouts since have kept a close watch on LeCounte and Roberts. But Williams has exploded into the scouting scene as well. He tied for third in the 40-yard dash at 4.53 seconds at the first Football MVP Camp of the offseason Feb. 15 at Lowndes High School in Valdosta. That performance earned him an invitation to the Rivals Camp this weekend in Orlando. LeCounte, Roberts and teammate Tracy White also received invites.
“He is the epitome of a workaholic, and he has worked his tail off since he got here,” Panther coach Kirk Warner said. “I knew he had talent watching him come up through the rec teams and I knew he could run the ball. He was a little bit late learning the nuances of the game and running behind his pads but the last five games of this past year were a treat for us. If he picks up where he left off, he is going to have an outstanding year, probably on both sides of the ball and at running back.”
Offensive coordinator Ryan Glazer said Williams stayed healthy last season, which was critical in final stretch of the season.
“He did whatever we asked of him, whether it was playing wide receiver or running back,” Glazer said. “He even played on defense and on special team. His work ethic, especially in this offseason has been great. He comes in the mornings, twice a week, he has weight training class, and after school, he lifts with a personal trainer three times a week as well. He is doing everything he has to and get where he needs to be and earn that chance to play at the next level, which he deserves to do.”
Getting ready for the Rivals Camp, Williams said he would love the chance to explore a variety of opportunities when it comes to where to play college football.
“My dad has always been a big North Carolina fan … and I’m a big (Southeastern Conference) and (Atlantic Coast Conference) guy, so anywhere around there I’ll be happy to go,” he said.