Ooltewah’s Mike Williams, one of District 5-AAA’s most respected wide receiver threats in 2013, has signed a football scholarship with Northwest Missouri State, the defending NCAA Division II national champion.
Williams chose the Bearcats, members of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Conference, over Carson-Newman, in Jefferson City, Tenn., and Paine College, in Augusta College, which will return to Division II football in 2014 for the first time in 50-plus years.
The 6-foot-1-inch, 175-pound former Owls standout visited Northwest Missouri in Maryville, Mo., last week and committed to the Bearcats during his trip. He signed scholarship papers on Monday.
“I’m pretty pumped up about going out there,” Williams said Tuesday night. “It’s a nice town, the coaches are nice and they have pretty much Division I facilities. They usually redshirt every freshman they sign, but I want to play my freshman year. If I get out there and they’ve got better players ahead of me I don’t mind redshirting.”
Williams wrapped up his Ooltewah career with sparkling numbers in 2013, grabbing 52 passes for 658 yards and eight touchdowns. He rushed five times for 76 yards and two scores while leading the Owls to a 9-3 record, including a 26-19 loss to district rival East Hamilton in the second round of the Class 5-A playoffs.
For his career, Williams had 89 receptions for 1,358 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Also a defensive stalwart, Williams had three interceptions and blocked 10 kicks in 2013.
“Mike was our go-to guy,” Owls coach Mac Bryan said. “When the defense lined up, offensively we did what they were doing to him. He played great defense in critical situations too. He’s a great kid with a great work ethic, has great character and is a first-class kid.
“He’s going to a football program that’s as good as it gets in Division II. I think he’ll do a great job out there.”
Northwest Missouri went 15-0 last season and defeated Lenoir Ryne, 43-28, in Florence, Ala., for the Division II national title. It was the school’s fourth championship, with the other three coming in 1998 (the Bearcats also went 15-0 that year), 1999 and 2009.
The Bearcats are coached by Adam Dorrel, the 2013 American Football Coaches Association and MIAA Coach of the Year and takes 36-6 overall and 25-4 MIAA records into his ninth season in 2014.
Northwest Missouri’s offense has averaged 45.7 points per game, scored 59 points in eight different games and produced a sixth round draft choice – Brandon Dixon – by the New York Jets under Dorrel, an All-America offensive lineman during his playing days with the Bearcats.
On Nov. 15, the Bearcats will play MIAA rival Washburn in Arrowhead Stadium, their 13th appearance in the home of the Kansas City Chiefs. Northwest Missouri has won nine of those games and seven times the attendance exceeded 20,000.
“Mike’s a good player,” said Bryan, entering his second season with the Owls. “Two years from now he’s going to be a good mid-major receiver. With his work ethic, he’ll do what needs to be done.”
Williams visited Carson-Newman, but his decision to attend Northwest Missouri was basically set in stone last Wednesday during his trip Maryville.
“I committed to them while I was there,” Williams said. “Carson-Newman offered me a pretty good deal, but I had a pretty good feel about Northwest Missouri and felt like that was the best place for me.
“I had a great time at Ooltewah and I’ll miss the teachers, administration and coaches – they all helped me get through and make the opportunity to play football in college happen.”
Williams became academically eligible late and feels that kept him from possibly receiving more serious looks by Division I schools. However, he said he ended up with a 3.25 grade-point average and made all A’s in his core classes prior to graduation.
“I’m very happy about that,” Williams said. “That gives me confidence that I can do all right in college. I almost waited too long to get my grades in order, but coach (Doug) Greene told me what I had to do and I did it.”
When it became obvious his Division I plans would not materialize, Williams sent highlight tapes to about 15 Division II schools and got responses from “three or four.”
Northwest Missouri, which recruited Williams to play wide receiver, was one of those schools.
Williams said he will report to school on Aug. 12.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)