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Gainesville's Chris Williamson officially signs with Florida
Red Elephants senior signed National Letter of Intent to play defensive back for Gators
Gainesville's Chris Williamson signs to play football at the University of Florida on Wednesday at Gainesville High. Williamson is one of five Gainesville football players to participate in national signing day this year. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Finally able to put pen to paper, Gainesville High’s Chris Williamson said he felt “a sense of relief” by ending a nearly three-month long recruiting frenzy and signing his National Letter of Intent to play defensive back at the University of Florida.

After finishing a breakout senior season in which he caught 52 passes for 1,061 yards and 14 touchdowns, the first-team all-state selection and four-star prospect verbally committed to the Gators on a Fox Sports South broadcast Monday night, before making it official on National Signing Day in front of a packed lobby Wednesday at Gainesville High School.

After receiving more than 20 scholarship offers and several in-home visits, Williamson said he’s just happy for it to all be over.

“It feels good,” Williamson said. “I’ll be getting my life back for the first time in a while. I’ll be able to go out with my friends and enjoy it.”

For a man who’s helped many of Gainesville High’s best athletes pen their way to the top tiers of college football, Gainesville coach Wayne Jones said his experience with Chris Williamson has been “something else.”

Jones, the Red Elephants’ recruiting coordinator, has helped student-athletes like Alabama’s Blake Sims, Tennessee’s A.J. Johnson and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson achieve the dream of playing at a Division-I university.

The decision to commit can be one of the most demanding decisions in a young person’s life, according to Jones, especially if he or she chooses to hold out until the final week.

Williamson, a two-way star with Gainesville, was recruited as a defensive back by 22 of his 24 Division I suitors, including Georgia, which gave him the option to play on offense and defense.

“The phone calls had been coming 24/7,” Jones said. “It’s been stressful (for Chris). I told Chris before this that his life was about to change, and now he finally sees that.”

Williamson will be joined at Florida by fellow signees Martez Ivey, a five-star tackle from Apopka High, and Jordan Scarlett, a four-star running back out of St. Thomas Aquinas High. The school has received a bump in quality recruits since former Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain took over the program in mid-December.

Williamson, who will start classes in Gainesville, Fla. this June, said he’s also looking forward to learning from the senior members of his new team.

“They’ve got a really good group of (defensive backs), which is what they’re all about,” he said. “I’ve got to show them I’ve got the (ability) to play. You’re going to be seeing me on the field next year, you can book it.”

Williamson signed his scholarship agreement alongside four Gainesville teammates: kicker Patrick Schmitt (Birmingham Southern), middle linebacker J.D. Sosebee (Charleston Southern), defensive back Lewis Cousins (Delta State University) and defensive lineman Jamel Dabney (Dean College).

Williamson will spend his spring conditioning in Atlanta at Hammer Smith Sports, with defensive back trainer Ray Buchanan. The two have been training together for three years. Buchanan called Williamson “a rare breed” that has the potential to log important playing time with veteran cornerbacks like Vernon Hargreaves III, Brian Poole and Marcus Maye.

“Florida just landed probably the most creative diamond in the rough available on the board,” Buchanan said. “He has great eyes, quickness and strength, great eye coordination. Those are things that are rare for defensive backs, but he’s got it.”

Bethel Williamson, Chris’s father, said his son enjoyed getting to tour the campus on his official visit last weekend, as well as meet several Gator seniors. The choice came down to the final car ride home, with Chris making up his mind as the family headed back to Gainesville, Ga.

Chris had received scholarship offers from high-profile schools like Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia and California before finally deciding on Florida.

“He was dealing with some really great schools,” Bethel Williamson said. “It’s a weight that’s been lifted off of his back now. It came down to that last visit, and they told him where he would fit.”

Williamson is willing to work, he said, with a solid group of starters ahead of him. And with the long wait to commit finally over, he’s more than happy to put his focus back on football.

“It was great to be around the team, they showed me a good time and no one tried to push me,” he said. “They let me make my own decision and now I can get back to work.”

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