Smyrna star linebacker Williams headed to Blue Hens

Smyrna High School football linebacker Darryl “Debo” Williams gets a handshake from his father Darren Williams after choosing the University of Delaware to play college football during a press conference Wednesday at Smyrna High School. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

SMYRNA — Darryl “Debo” Williams pulled out his phone and started scrolling through it.

“Let me pull this up, this is funny,” Williams said to the media members covering his Signing Day.

The Smyrna High senior found a picture from when he was 12 years old, at a University of Delaware football camp, wearing a Delaware shirt.
It came full circle for Williams on Wednesday as the star linebacker signed his National Letter of Intent to officially play football for Delaware beginning next season.

“I’m not going to say I knew then,” Williams said about the photo. “But I definitely had something going on.”

A crowd filling up three sections of bleachers in the Smyrna High gym saw Williams announce his decision. Williams revealed afterward he originally committed to Delaware in August but kept it a secret until Wednesday.

The reveal came when Williams pulled a UD visor out of an Elon football hat, one of his final three schools along with Massachusetts, and put it on his head. His family and Smyrna coach Mike Judy then took off their sweatshirts and were all wearing blue and gold Delaware shirts underneath as the crowd in the bleachers cheered.

“It’s home,” Williams said. “It’s family. I feel like I can make a difference there. Why not do it in my home state? I was winning championships here in Smyrna, I feel like I can bring that to the college level too.”

After selecting University of Delaware, Smyrna High School football linebacker Darryl Debo Williams, center, poses with his family. From left, stepfather Anthony Smith, mother Crystal Smith, father Darren Williams and grandmother LaTonya Mann during a press conference at Smyrna High School.

And why did the reigning Delaware high school Defensive Player of the Year keep his commitment a secret for so long?

“So I can get a reaction like I did today,” Williams said. “I wanted to make it interesting.”

Williams is coming off a historic year where he broke his own school record for most tackles in a single season with 151. Williams originally held the record with 128 as a sophomore and was on track to break it as a junior before a knee injury cut his 2018 season short.

He bounced back from the injury to deliver what Judy called one of the most memorable individual efforts he’s seen as Williams helped lead the Eagles to the state semifinals.

“What he displayed this season was one of the best displays of leadership I’ve ever seen as a high school coach,” Judy said.

“He has an extraordinary ability to diagnose plays and react. He can see the play happening one or two steps after the running back takes a step,” Judy added. “He’ll see something and know exactly where it’s going and how it’s going to get there. He’s a natural linebacker, loves contact.”

Williams will be the third recent Smyrna grad to trade in the red and white of Smyrna for the blue and gold of Delaware.

He’ll join former teammates Nolan Henderson and Will Knight in Newark next year. Henderson was a senior at Smyrna when Williams was a freshman, while Knight played two years as Williams’ teammate with the Eagles.

Henderson became Delaware’s starting quarterback this year, while Knight transferred from Old Dominion to Delaware and earned All-American honors as a Blue Hen.

Darryl “Debo” Williams, center, selects the University of Delaware as his family from left, stepfather Anthony Smith, mother Crystal Smith, father Darren Williams, grandmother LaTonya Mann and Smyrna head coach Mike Judy look on.

Knight was a two-time Delaware high school Offensive Player of the Year and Henderson also won the award once. Williams became the first Smyrna player to win the state’s Defensive Player of the Year award this season.

“I’m too excited,” Williams said of reuniting with his former teammates. “I want to bring that Smyrna power from defense now. They got all our offensive stars, I wanted to bring it from the defensive side. That’s a once in a lifetime thing. People who played together in high school to have them at the same school in college, that rarely happens.”

Williams is another example of top instate talent staying home to play at Delaware like which Judy said started under former coach Dave Brock and has continued under current UD coach Danny Rocco.

“It helps the state of Delaware for high school football and the University of Delaware to make sure they throw a net or a blanket over the state,” Judy said. “When there’s a good player, they don’t walk out of the borders of our state without knowing Delaware loves them before they get recruited by another good program. Even going back to the previous staff with coach (Dave) Brock, they are active and in contact with the coaches, coming into schools when they’re allowed to. You don’t have to go searching for a University of Delaware guy now which is really cool to see. It makes me very happy to see that comeback by them from a recruiting standpoint.”

Williams said he’s not sure what the outlook on his personal playing time for next year is at this point. He said he’s focused on what he can control.

“I want them to use me the best they can,” Williams said. “I’m not worried about playing time, I’m worried about winning. Whatever they need me to do, whether it’s special teams, starting linebacker, starting nose-guard, I’m a team player first.”