Chris Williamson is too valuable an asset to stand on the Gainesville sideline for long.
Williamson is one of senior Mikey Gonzalez’s leading targets for the Red Elephants (5-2, 5-1 Region 8-AAAAA). He’s also stepped up and played the majority of snaps for Gainesville’s defense, recording 24 stops from his spot at cornerback.
Coach Bruce Miller knows there’s also the chance for something special to happen on special teams when Williamson gets his hands on the ball.
“Sometimes I start to wonder how much more energy he has, but he keeps going,” said Miller.
Williamson, who is currently verbally committed to play next year at the University of Louisiana-Monroe, has put up 29 receptions for a team-high 494 yards. Friday’s outing against Clarke Central had two moments where Williamson made something big, primarily as a result of his breakaway speed.
Williamson had a game-high 155 receiving yards on five catches for the Red Elephants, who remain second in the Region 8-AAAAA standings. He found a way to produce in all phases of the game at City Park Stadium.
After dropping a kickoff midway through the second quarter against the Gladiators, Williamson recovered the ball and started shaking off defenders as he sprinted downfield. After fielding the ball at the Red Elephants’ 10, Williamson returned the ball 42 yards, setting up possession just on Clarke Central’s side of the 50 for an eventual touchdown drive.
“It seemed like every 10 or 15 yards on that return, he made a guy miss and kept on going,” Miller said.
Gonzalez finished the drive with a 3-yard touchdown strike to Rodney Lackey in the end zone, one of his four touchdown passes in the 35-10 region victory.
After his athletic kickoff return, Williamson also had an impressive catch when he chased down what looked like an overthrown pass, going fully extended in the air toward the goal line with arms extended for a 34-yard gain down to the 3. Gainesville’s receiver said he was trying to make up for cutting the route short as he sprinted down the field.
“Honestly, I didn’t know I would be able to catch it,” said Williamson. “But I knew I had to try.”
Williamson also added Gainesville’s longest touchdown play of the game, on a well-thrown 65-yard pass in stride from Gonzalez during its second possession of the third quarter. Gonzalez’s steadiness at quarterback is a major part of Gainesville success, throwing for 1,587 yards and completing 72 percent of his passes to this point in the season.
“Mikey’s numbers are unbelievable,” said Williamson. “He’s putting the ball right on they money and that’s all I can ask for as a wide receiver.”
Miller says Williamson is one of Gainesville’s two-way workhorses, even though he traditionally has players only on one side of the ball. Injuries have been a leading factor to needing Williamson at wide receiver and in the secondary. Against Lanier, Williamson was on the field for 100 snaps.
Williamson said Miller and the rest of the Gainesville coaching staff have done a great job with conditioning and having him ready to play four full quarters. They also stay on top of him during games to see if he needs to catch his breath for a couple of minutes.
Williamson’s success has been appreciated by Miller. As a junior, Williamson was hampered by injuries, including an ankle injury and hip flexor, that limited his production in 2013.
Now healthy and producing at a high level, Williamson is drawing increased attention from college scouts, including Wake Forest and Western Kentucky, according to Miller. With his ability to play both sides of the football, it will also increase his value to college programs. Williamson said that Iowa State will also pay him a visit this weekend, along with interest he’s receiving late in the process from N.C. State.
Williamson said playing wide receiver is his favorite, but he enjoys the rush of going head to head at defensive back against another top receivers. On Friday, Gainesville visits Cedar Shoals in Athens.