Safety signee Mykelti Williams bides time before joining Notre Dame
When it comes to Mykelti Williams, Indianapolis Warren Central High School football coach Jayson West tosses out descriptors with reckless abandon.
Different than all the rest.
A perfect storm — in a good way.
On Saturday, that storm was outwardly calm, just another 195-pound football player milling around the sidelines on a sunny morning at Notre Dame. Williams, a four-star safety who signed a letter-of-intent with the Irish in February and who will arrive on campus for good this summer, watched his future teammates practice at the LaBar Practice Complex, and quietly simmered below the surface.
His future stared back at him, teasing him, a new team and a greater challenge dangling out of reach.
“You go so long without something, and you miss it all the time,” Williams said. “When you see it right in front of your face, it really makes you miss it even more. I’m just ready to get back on the field and play ball.”
Williams’ habits support his words. Even now, months after his senior season at Warren Central concluded, the 6-foot safety gets up before the sun four times a week to watch film in an empty school.
That devotion is one reason why he was able to digest a slew of positions last season, registering 74 tackles and seven interceptions on defense while adding more than 400 rushing yards and eight offensive touchdowns in 2014.
“There’s a lot of guys that are 6-foot, 195 pounds, just like him. The whole country’s filled with them,” West said. “But he has a gift of being versatile, and that’s by studying. Nobody watches more film than him that I’ve ever coached.”
In the coach-speak dictionary, the words Williams uses to describe his game are among the most popular. And yet, when the Indianapolis native recites them, they emit an authentic glow.
“I actually love football,” he said, stressing every syllable, pumping sincerity into his words. “This is what I want to do. I want to learn the game. I sleep and breathe the game.”
Don’t be surprised, then, when Williams arrives in South Bend ready to learn and grow. Don’t think twice when he meets some already lofty expectations.
After all, that’s what led him here in the first place, to the university that always sat alone atop his list. It’s what garnered him the respect of his teammates, even as an unassuming sophomore.
From the first meeting on the first day, it’s what drew the attention of his coach.
“It was more just the first time I met him, when you bring kids in to talk to them. He sits right up front, gives you complete focus, attention and eye contact. And a lot of kids do that,” West said. “But when he goes out to the field, it’s the same. He’s first in line, constantly coaching other kids that don’t have near his ability.
“He’s just excellent.”
But at least situationally, he’s not unique. A few years ago, another standout Warren Central football player who grew up in the same neighborhood as Williams pored through a who’s who of scholarship offers, and landed at Notre Dame. He possessed the same quiet leadership, the same hunger to improve.
The same characteristics that have allowed defensive tackle Sheldon Day to succeed on Saturdays propelled Williams down a similar path.
“We kind of have the same personality and the same feel for things,” Williams said. “He just plays a different position, really. That’s all it is.”
Therein lies what West dubs ‘the perfect storm’ – that volatile mixture of physical ability and insatiable desire. It’s what Williams plans to bring to Notre Dame, and to a defense that looks more than capable even without him.
“I honestly believe that this is a national championship-caliber defense,” Williams said. “And I’m not just saying that, because it’s the school I’m going to. I came in and watched practice, and the way they communicate and the way they get to the ball and the way they play the game with passion … I really don’t see any defense better.”
One thing Williams couldn’t see at practice, though, was the rapport between the Irish safeties and new defensive backs coach Todd Lyght, who missed Saturday's practice to attend his late mother’s memorial service in Atlanta. While Williams and Lyght have spoken on the phone, they’ve yet to meet in person.
Like all other things, however, Williams has done his homework.
“He’s been through the system. He knows Notre Dame. He played there before and he’s been successful,” Williams said. “I want to learn everything that he knows so that I can be successful, just like him.
“He’s kind of like a cheat code for me, because he really has all the answers.”
For now, though, all Williams can do is work out, roll out of bed for 6 a.m., film sessions and count down the days until Notre Dame is his reality, not his future.
For a few more months, he’ll have to keep the lid on a perfect storm.
“I’m just trying to enjoy the rest of my senior year,” he said. “I’m not rushing anything, but I know that when the time comes, I’ll be ready to go.”
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Today's feature story on Notre Dame incoming freshman safety Mykelti Williams is the second in an ongoing weekly series of profiles taking a look at the members of the incoming Irish freshman football class.