Smyrna star linebacker Williams swarmed by college offers

Debo Williams (1), shown assisting on a tackle for Smyrna, has been busy this summer with visits to Duke, Wake Forest, Connecticut, Old Dominion and Villanova. He has more visits with Albany and Richmond on his schedule. Delaware State News file photos

SMYRNA — Darryl “Debo” Williams wasn’t going to let an injury derail his dreams of playing college football.

And as far as injuries go, this one was serious.

Yet here Williams is, fully healthy and with double-digit Division I scholarship offers on the table.

The rising senior linebacker at Smyrna High has been offered by several FBS programs, a host of FCS programs and has been receiving interest from some Power-Five schools during the summer recruiting period. All this despite a knee injury on Oct. 19, 2018 which cost him the remainder of his junior season.

“That was tough for me because it was really the first major injury I had,” Williams said. “It showed me how quickly the game can be taken away from you.”

Williams, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 227 pounds on recruiting sites. has been busy this summer with visits to Duke, Wake Forest, Connecticut, Old Dominion and Villanova. He has more visits with Albany and Richmond on his schedule.

So far, he has received scholarship offers from Kent State, Old Dominion, Coastal Carolina, Austin Peay, Elon, Stony Brook, Richmond, Albany, Villanova, Sacred Heart, Monmouth, Morgan State and Delaware State.

Smyrna coach Mike Judy said he wouldn’t be surprised if Williams’ number of offers was closer to 20 by the end of the summer.

Williams has been named to the All-State First Team at linebacker each of the last two seasons.

“I think there’s more to come,” Judy said. “Luckily the offers that he has are great schools and they will be great fits from a football perspective, and nothing is more thrilling as a coach to know that your guys are going to be taken care of. I’m happy where he is, but there’s more out there. He won’t have a shortage of options, that’s for sure.”

Williams said he tried to find a silver lining in the injury which came during Smyrna’s sixth contest of the season against Dover.

He used it to focus on the mental part of the game. He acted as a coach for the Eagles on the sidelines, which he said helped him become a better leader.

Judy noticed a different version of Williams ever since that game in October. That leadership has carried over into Smyrna’s workouts this summer.

“I’m sure getting hurt was a struggle for him mentally.” Judy said. “But he did a really good job of just being there for us. Being injured, you go through a range of emotions and it can get you down, but he refused to do that. He showed up every day and wanted to motivate and coach people. I definitely saw a change in his leadership after the injury.”

Williams played as a freshman as Smyrna won the 2017 Division state title and had an even bigger role as a sophomore during Smyrna’s third-consecutive state championship season.

He was the starting middle linebacker and broke the school record for tackles with 128. He was hoping to top that record as a junior before the injury but still led the Eagles in tackles with 68 in just six games.

Debo Williams (1) said he always wanted to play football in college, but it wasn’t until 8th grade when he grew into his body that he knew it was going to be his primary goal.

Williams tried to emulate some of the veteran Eagles who helped him as an underclassmen when he was sidelined with his injury.

“It showed me how to be a vocal leader,” Williams said. “When I first came in we had guys like Will Knight, Hunter Moyer and Diron Accoo, all those older guys that I looked up to. They were the leaders, I would just play my game and lead by example. But sitting out, showed me I needed to take on a vocal role.”

And Williams attacked his rehab with the same intensity.

“I feel like I’m even stronger,” Williams said. “On the field, I feel like I’m explosive.”

Williams said he always wanted to play football in college, but it wasn’t until eighth grade when he grew into his body that he knew it was going to be his primary goal.

Judy said when Williams arrived at Smyrna, he thought he had another Division I player on his hands.

“Debo was given a lot of gifts from an instincts and drive standpoint,” Judy said. “He’s got a lot of intangibles that say a lot about his upbringing. He wants to work hard. He doesn’t need to be told to work hard. That’s an old school guy that a lot of coaches can relate to.”

Another thing about Williams, Judy says, is he’s always evolving. He’s a different football player now than he was even a year ago.

Williams said he understands his role more as the middle linebacker and has simplified the game on the defensive side of the ball.

“I think where I went wrong last year is I was worried about making all the tackles” Williams said. “So I kind of only had individual goals thinking about it. Now I know my only goal for senior year is that state championship.”

“He was trying to make every play,” Judy agreed. “Now he’s a football player. He tries to fit into the scheme. He knows now you can make a good play on defense without making a tackle.”

Williams has been named to the All-State First Team at linebacker each of the last two seasons.

“He is physically advanced for his age, strong, fast and very, very powerful,” Judy said. “He had all the tools coming in and was understanding of the process to take the next step. He knows it’s about grades and relationships with teammates and coaches. When you talk to him on these recruiting visits, the coaches are blown away. They say talking to him is like taking to an adult.”

Williams said he would like to have his mind made up on a school before his senior season begins. But he won’t announce it until after the year is over, likely at Early Signing Day in December.

Right now, he’s focused on finding where he fits best for the next four years, and not just on the football field.

“The main thing is if it has good education,” Williams said. “I want to go to school for communications so I’m looking at that. I just want to make sure I love the school.”

And while the recruiting process can be hectic at times, Williams said he’s making the most of the situation.

“I just take it all as positivity,” Williams said. “It’s a blessing really, to be able to do this and to have all these opportunities. It can be overwhelming because it is a lot, but I don’t think about it like that, I know it’s a blessing so I always keep a positive mindset.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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