Former Hahnville Tigers superstar Pooka Williams is on the watch list for one of college football’s most prestigious awards.
The University of Kansas rusher was named to the Maxwell Award preseason watch list, one of 25 NCAA standouts on the radar for an honor annually bestowed upon the most outstanding player in college football. The Maxwell trophy has been presented to who voters determine as the sport’s Player of the Year since 1937, named for Robert “Tiny” Maxwell, a former standout player, renowned sports writer and a football official.
After a record-setting senior season at Hahnville, Williams took little time to make his mark as a member of the Jayhawks. He has rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a true freshman and as a sophomore. In 2019, he racked up 1,275 all-purpose yards and rushed for three touchdowns. Over both seasons, he’s rushed for 2,186 yards and 10 touchdowns on 364 carries, averaging marks of 7.0 and 5.2 yards per carry, respectively. His coming out party happened as a freshmen, when he tallied 252 yards on 15 carries in a nationally televised 55-40 loss to Oklahoma. He rushed for two touchdowns and passed for another in the game.
Were Williams to earn the Maxwell Award, it wouldn’t be his first major honor at the college level. He was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year by the Associated Press in 2018. Williams was also named to the preseason All Big-12 conference team.
Recent Maxwell winners include LSU’s Joe Burrow, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. The last running back to win the award was Derrick Henry in 2015.
Williams’ recruitment to Kansas was heavily covered locally, particularly as the postseason of his senior year unfolded. He rushed for more than 1,500 yards over Hahnville’s five playoff games, and topped the 300 yard mark in his first three. He led the team to its first appearance in the Class 5A championship game since the 2003 Tigers made it to the Superdome. Williams rushed for 210 yards and a touchdown against Zachary in his final game as a Tiger despite reportedly suffering a high-ankle sprain a week earlier. in Hahnville’s semifinal win at Acadiana. Williams finished his 15-game senior campaign with the most rushing yards in a single season in Louisiana history, topping the 3,000 yard mark.
He chose the Jayhawks over LSU and Miami, honoring a commitment he made prior to his senior season. After his freshman season, Kansas brought on former LSU head coach Les Miles to lead the Jayhawks program, bringing together two big names from the Louisiana football scene.
Following the Tigers‘ 2017 run to the Class 5A state final, then Hahnville head coach Nick Saltaformaggio said Williams put the Hahnville program back on the prep football map.
“He’s one of the most dynamic kids you’ll ever find,” Saltaformaggio said. “I thought when I was at East Jefferson, Ronald Green and Eugene Wells were once in a lifetime kids. Anthony is truly a once in a lifetime athlete. I haven’t coached anybody quite like him.
“In baseball, you have guys they call five-tool players. He’s kind of a five-tool player in football. He’s a kick returner, punt returner, he can catch ball as a split, can catch it out of a slot, he can run it downhill.”