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Despite a late push from Nebraska, Bryson Williams excited to start Wisconsin career

Liz Seitz

At noon on Wednesday inside Lincoln Southeast High School in Nebraska, class of 2018 defensive tackle Bryson Williams will sign his national letter of intent to play for the Wisconsin Badgers.

This, after a prep career that boasted honors ranging from all-city to super-state and making the Omaha World-Herald All-Nebraska team.

“That guy’s amazing,” safety and fellow 2018 Wisconsin commit Reggie Pearson said on Wednesday. “I’ve watched his tape. This guy’s beating up double-teams and just killing the quarterback. That’s kid’s pretty good.”

According to Williams, a three-star lineman, there won’t be a big ceremony, but he will get a head start on acclimating to the rigors of college football in Madison as an early enrollee.

“I firmly believe in hard work is what really takes you places, and I know that getting just a couple months head start on things would help me out a lot,” Williams said. “As far as being an incoming freshman, not even just athletically, academically getting in and starting classes in January. I just want to be able to kind of gather as much information and get as physically ready as I can for next year. If I have the chance to play next year or for a redshirt, no matter what, I just want to get a head start on things.”

That’s not to say the past few weeks haven’t been crazy for Williams, who will play nose tackle at Wisconsin for defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard and defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield.

Williams lives in Lincoln, Neb., the heart of Husker Nation and a rabid Big Red fan base, but he wasn’t offered by former Nebraska head coach Mike Riley and his staff. Williams committed to Wisconsin back on July 5, choosing UW over the likes of Iowa, Duke, and Kansas State.

That lack of offer status changed when Nebraska hired Scott Frost to replace Riley, and a scholarship opportunity for Williams to play for the Huskers was extended on Dec. 3.

Williams noted Frost gave him his second FBS offer as the head coach at Central Florida, and the prior relationship between the two parties, which included current Huskers defensive quality control coach Barrett Ruud, led to conversation.

At Nebraska, there has been a renewed emphasis on keeping the best in-state prep players from leaving the state’s borders. There was no exception with Frost’s staff focusing in on Williams.

“He just let me know that, ‘We wanted you at UCF, and we definitely want you here’ because I only live about 10 minutes away from the stadium,” Williams said. “I can almost see the stadium from my house, so they were focused. I mean, coach Ruud knew how hard I was working and he knows the kind of mindset/attitude I have towards things, and coach Frost, same thing. He’s like, ‘You’re the type of kid we want to be here, the hard-working kid,’ so it was things like that they wanted to talk to me about.”

Both programs’ coaching staffs made in-home visits to Williams, including a couple in the past week. One from Nebraska came right after his official visit to Wisconsin on Dec. 10. Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst, along with Breckterfield, were seen in a photo with Williams on Dec. 12.

Almost five months after verbally committing to the Badgers, the 62nd-ranked defensive tackle in the nation by 247Sports had to weigh his options once again.

“[Nebraska] gave me a lot to think about, honestly,” Williams said. “I thought about both schools hard, and listed out the pros and cons of both, and there’s just so many great things I love about Wisconsin that I knew it was the school for me.”

Williams knew he would stick with his July decision the night of Dec. 13, a day before he publicly announced his intentions to sign with Wisconsin. Though talks of an official visit to Nebraska surfaced, the young lineman “wasn’t really trying to play any games.”

“I didn’t want to lead anybody on,” Williams said. “I wanted to be straight-up with both sides, so as soon as I was going to take Wisconsin, I let coach Frost know that I wasn’t going to take an official because it’s just a waste of time on both sides.”

Williams did not really turn to anyone within the current crop of Wisconsin’s recruits because he wanted to make his own decision, but he also did not leave his future teammates hanging, notifying them via their group chat before his decision went public.

“I let them know before I put it out there that I was staying,” Williams said, “and they were all relieved because they were worried about it too, but they’re great.”

“He was just saying, you guys are a really big help to make his final decision,” Pearson said. “It made everybody feel so good on the inside because [of] the impact that we put on another player to leave his own hometown to play with us. It’s amazing to be able to do that and touch somebody that way, it’s God’s gift. It’s great.”

In his Dec. 14 tweet reaffirming his commitment to Wisconsin, Williams thanked the Huskers coaching staff and showed the respect he has for the program while acknowledging he was still heading to Madison.

Just a few days prior, he took his official visit to Wisconsin on the weekend of Dec. 9, an experience he described as “amazing.” Sixteen of UW’s current 19 scholarship commits were there as well, and based on various photos floating around Twitter, the weekend included many of them taking in the team’s football banquet on Friday night.

“I think one of the main things I think it did for me was introduce me to the class of ‘18,” Williams said. “We have a group chat between the guys, between Wisconsin commits and the preferred walk-on guys, and getting to just meet some of the commits and the guys that committed, and get to meet them at the banquet and actually like get to talk to them, it was awesome.

“It was such a great class of guys, and we all get along great, you know all of us. There was a few of us that were there that are graduating early, like Donte [Burton] and Reggie [Pearson], so I’m excited. Those guys are super funny.”

His final decision now cemented and sending the Letter of Intent to Wisconsin a mere formality, Williams is set to join the program in about a month’s time to start winter conditioning, then proceed to his first set of spring practices as a college student-athlete.

For Williams, who already bench presses 385 pounds, squats 535, and cleans 365, his goals as an incoming freshman and early enrollee are simple.

“I mean, I’m going to try to just outwork as many people as I can right away,” Williams said. “I know conditioning is going to be really hard for me because I have not had any type of college conditioning yet, but I’m ready to work as hard as I can and get things done.”