True Freshman Mike Williams Is A Rare Florida Recruit, Rare Talent

Sept. 15, 2002

Looking At.............

Wide Receiver
6-5, 210, Freshman
Tampa, Fla.

Mike Williams is rare in many ways.

He's rare because of his size. At 6-5 and 210 pounds, he is not your typical USC receiver.

He's rare because of his smooth routes and sticky hands that have him currently leading the Trojans with 11 receptions so far this season.

He's rare because he is one of only four players ever from the state of Florida to letter at USC.

Most of all, he's rare because he is doing all this as a true freshman.

And USC is lucky to have him.

Williams went to high school at Plant High in Tampa, not too far from where another big Trojan receiver--Keyshawn Johnson--earns his keep for the NFL's Buccaneers. So he was pretty familiar with the USC receiver tradition.

'When I first told my high school coach that I was considering USC, that was the first thing he mentioned,' said Williams, who caught 38 passes for 789 yards as an All-American senior. 'I knew that USC had a lot of success in the past and that a lot of players still go to the NFL.'

Williams was wanted by the Florida schools, but not as a wide receiver. The Gators wanted him to be a tight end, while Miami saw him as a strong safety. Their loss was USC's gain, since Williams saw himself solely as a wide out.

'I've always been a big guy,' said Williams. 'I grew up playing quarterback in Pop Warner football. Once I got to high school, big receivers were a big deal. They were taking college and the NFL by storm. That's when I made the transition to receiver and decided that that's what I wanted to do.'

Williams was also a pretty solid basketball player in high school. He averaged nearly 17 points and eight rebounds per game as a senior and helped lead his team to the state semifinals as a junior. Part of what sold USC coach Pete Carroll on Williams was seeing the athleticism he displayed while on the basketball court.

'I guess basketball skills translate well to playing receiver,' said Williams. 'Coach Carroll talks about how being a basketball player shows how you can get off the ground well. I can't help but use that to my advantage as far as timing and going for jump balls.'

From 1880 until 2001, only two USC lettermen came from Florida. In 2002, the Trojans suddenly have two who already have earned a letter. Besides Williams, freshman safety Mike Ross from St. Petersburg has seen some action as well (he recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown at Colorado).

'Back home, he was from right across the bay from me,' said Williams. 'Anyone from the the Tampa-St. Pete area will tell you that sports teams from those two areas don't like to co-exist. But I knew who he was and knew he was a good player. I didn't get in contact with him until I had already signed with USC, then we finally met for the first time.'

Both Williams and Ross give USC a little taste of the style of football played in the Sunshine State.

'There's different kinds of football everywhere,' said Williams. 'In Florida, I know there is a lot of speed at every position. Some states just have speed at receiver or at running back. But back home there seems to be speed all across the board. The players also have a reputation for being talkers.

'When you come this far, you want to represent where you are from. I think it is good for people back home to see me on the other side of the country doing what I'm doing.'

As far away as Williams was from USC, the Trojans had a unique connection to him. His high school quarterback's sister is married to USC receivers coach Lane Kiffin.

'That was a strange coincidence,' said Williams. 'When I found that out, the recruiting process was just beginning. As coach Kiffin kept calling, we reached a good comfort level.'

Williams is starting to look real comfortable just two games into his college career. He caught the first pass thrown to a Trojan wide receiver this season on USC's first series against Auburn. He finished that game with four catches for 56 yards. Against Colorado, he added a game-high seven receptions for 90 yards. Though he is on pace to have a very nice rookie season, he is not letting success get to his head just yet.

'My first games were decent,' said Williams. 'There are a lot of things I need to work on. It was a good experience, though.'

The more good experiences he has, the better Mike Williams--and USC--is going to get.

By Chris Huston, Assistant Sports Information Director

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