PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — New Arkansas running back Maleek Williams will hop in a car for an 18-hour trip to Fayetteville later this week, completing an impressive few months that saw him set a goal to enroll early and achieve it.
Williams is one of 10 new Razorbacks who join the program this month and participate in spring football practices.
“I’m definitely feeling anxious,” Williams said during an exclusive interview in his home with SEC Country. “It’s a big step in my life. I’ve never done anything like this before.”
Williams, a 3-star prospect, committed to Arkansas last summer. He chose the Razorbacks over offers from Oregon, Tennessee, North Carolina, Illinois and Kentucky, among others.
Shortly after he committed, Williams realized that graduating early from high school was within reach. But because he started that process so late, it was extremely difficult.
“I decided to give it a shot and really hard, get some online classes and hit them hard and see if I can make it,” Williams said.
So while rushing for 1,294 yards and 23 touchdowns — and leading Charlotte High School to the Class 7A Florida state semifinals — Williams was also hitting the books extra hard, making it possible for him to enroll early.
Williams said that once he told running backs coach Reggie Mitchell that he would enroll early, he didn’t want to let the Hogs down.
“I was committed,” Williams said. “I’m a Razorback now, so it was a team thing. I told Coach Mitchell I was gonna get it done, so I got it done.”
Williams is one of two running backs in Arkansas’ 2017 recruiting class, joining Memphis standout Chase Hayden. Williams is a big, physical back — he stands at 6-foot-1 and weighs 215 pounds — but probably will have to wait a bit to see significant playing time in Fayetteville.
He will be behind junior Rawleigh Williams III — who led the SEC in rushing yardage last year — and sophomores Devwah Whaley and T.J. Hammonds when he gets to campus.
Charlotte High coach Binky Waldrop described Maleek Williams as a “raw running back” because he didn’t actually start at the position until his senior year of high school. He started at linebacker as a junior.
“I think his best football is ahead of him,” Waldrop said. “He’s a tough kid. He’s a big kid. He’s a strong kid. He’s a fast kid.
“He’ll make Charlotte High School proud before he’s done.”