Anthony “Pooka” Williams signs with Kansas
Your first instinct and first impressions are always lasting ones. They are often the best ones. When in doubt, return to your original thought.
All of these axioms apply to Anthony Williams when it came to making his college decision. The brilliant young talent who is best known for being “Pooka” had a spectacular career at Hahnville High School. Now, he will have a chance to play in a Power Five conference.
Williams signed with Kansas Friday morning, choosing the Jayhawks over LSU and Nebraska. He also had offers from Tulane, Louisiana Tech, TCU, UCLA, Memphis, Mississippi State and Ball State.
Williams, who was named the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl/Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation Quarterback Club and CrescentCitySports.com Prep Player of the year made the announcement at The River Room Friday morning in Luling.
Williams honored his early commitment, as he cast his lot with Kansas way back on Feb. 3. Former Warren Easton head coach Tony Hull, now the associate head coach and running backs coach at Kansas, was instrumental in recruiting Hull to the Jayhawks.
“I just wanted to get it over with,” Williams said. “I’ve been interested in Kansas. That’s where my heart was. I stayed true to my commitment from day one. It was very hard to turn down the others. It is family at Kansas.”
Williams credited Hull with swaying him.
“He played a big role in my decision,” Williams said. “We talk like we’re family. I’m expecting to come in and be the man like at Hahnville. They want me to be an all-around athlete.”
Williams said LSU and Nebraska were serious considerations.
“They were very close,” Williams said. “I knew I had to do what I had to do and maintain my commitment (to Kansas).”
Hahnville head coach Nick Saltaformaggio is happy that Williams has the decision out of the way.
“Just having the opportunity to coach somebody like that, it makes you feel that what you got in this profession for is kind of complete now,” Saltaformaggio said. “He really helped us put our program back to where I thought Hahnville would be when I took the job. Because of Anthony, when you start looking at the top three, four or five top teams in 5A football, he has put us back in that mix.”
Saltaformaggio knows it was a tough decision.
“There’s a lot of things these kids go through when they get into this environment and when you blow up as quickly as he blew up, I just think he kept falling back on Kansas being the guys who wanted him first and when no one else knew him,” Saltaformaggio said. “That was hard for him to get away from. I think his loyalty to Hahnville carried over to being loyal to Kansas.”
While Kansas in a major conference, it is not a major player.
The Jayhawks have struggled mightily on the field, going 1-11 this past season, including 0-9 in the Big 12. Kansas has not posted a winning season since 2008, going to the Insight Bowl that season. Kansas has not won more than three games in any season in its last eight years. The Jayhawks are 3-33 in three years under current head coach David Beaty.
“I believe I can change the losing culture,” Williams said. “Of course, I can if I put my mind to it and we play as a team, we can change it. Playing in one of the top conferences meant a lot in my decision.”
Williams joins Corione Harris of Landry-Walker as a Kansas signee.
“Most definitely, I talk to him,” Williams said. “He’s like family, like I said, so we keep in touch.”
Williams led Hahnville to the Class 5A state championship game this past season, completing his senior season with 315 carries for 3,128 yards and 37 touchdowns (9.9 avg.). He caught eight passes for 169 yards and one touchdown. Williams returned six kickoffs for 333 yards, an average of 55.5 yards, and one touchdown. Williams returned three punts for 64 yards, a 21.3 yard average, and one touchdown.
Overall, Williams amassed 3,694 yards with 40 touchdowns in leading his team to a state runner-up finish.
For his career, Williams rushed 535 times for 5,604 yards and 68 touchdowns. He caught 78 passes for 1,504 yards and 11 touchdowns. Williams returned 20 punts and kickoffs for 852 yards and seven touchdowns. He finished his career with 670 touches for 8,114 yards and 86 touchdowns.
“I don’t know if I will ever have the great fortune to coach another player as great as Anthony,” Saltaformaggio said. “He is such a flash. If he can stay healthy and follow the right road in life, his potential is unlimited. He is a rare, once in a lifetime player.”
Williams is glad the recruiting process is over.
“The last few days were very crazy,” Williams said. “I took everyone’s opinion into consideration. They are not going to be at the college. I am. Yes, sir, I am relieved that it’s over.
Williams and Kansas are hoping that Pooka continues to be a shining star, believing that his first impression will leave a lasting impression on changing the fortunes of the Jayhawks on the gridiron.
Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…