Pooka Williams has taken his talents to the University of Kansas, and he’s already turning heads — and a few opponents’ ankles, no doubt.
Williams put his signature elite quickness and change of direction skills on full display for the Jayhawks Saturday as he became only the second ever true freshman in Kansas history to rush for over 100 yards in his debut, finishing his team’s victory at Central Michigan with 125 yards and two scores — both of them from a distance — on just 14 carries.
It helped lift Kansas (1-1) to its first victory on the road in nearly a decade.
Those who followed Williams’ career at the prep level likely aren’t all too surprised at his statline or his highlight reel from the game. For his former coach at Hahnville, that’s especially so.
“There’s nothing he does that surprises me with a football in his hands,” said Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio. “I’ve said all along, he’s the best football player I’ve ever coached. I don’t know if I have enough years left where I’ll ever have the chance to coach another like him. He was so great.”
Williams averaged 8.9 yards per carry in his college debut and was named the Big 12 conference’s Newcomer of the Week on Monday.
He also appeared to have bulked up a bit in preparation for his collegiate workload. He’s listed by the school to be 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, but any bulk he may have added did nothing to slow him down.
Williams’ recruitment 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.
In the end, Williams said his choice came down to LSU, Miami or Kansas, who he had committed to a year earlier. He chose to honor his commitment and Jayhawks fans seem to be embracing him as a special talent. Twitter was glowing with highlights of Williams after Kansas’ victory.
After last season’s playoff run. Saltaformaggio said Williams had put Hahnville back on the map. He’ll attempt to do the same now at Kansas, and Saltaformaggio says once Williams’ collegiate playing days are through, he expects the highlights to keep on coming — only a day later, for an NFL team.
“If he stays healthy, there’s no reason he won’t be playing on Sunday,” Saltaformaggio predicted. “None whatsoever.”