COTTONDALE, Ala. — Seth Williams’ high school — located just outside of Tuscaloosa city limits — is named after legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
A portrait of Bryant and his wife is displayed prominently in the front office of Paul W. Bryant High School. It sits behind a trophy case that includes an Alabama 6A basketball title and runner-up trophy that Williams helped deliver.
Bryant’s school nickname is the “Stampede,” itself a reference to the elephant mascot of the massive university located 8 miles west.
And yet Williams is just a few weeks away from enrolling at Auburn.
“I have nothing against Alabama,” Williams told SEC Country. “I grew up an Alabama fan. But I felt like I needed to get out of the area of Tuscaloosa and widen out with my ability to play football. I just didn’t want to stay here the rest of my life.”
For Williams, that means going to Alabama’s hated rival on the other side of the state. Auburn signed the 6-foot-3, 4-star receiver in December, less than a month after he committed to play for the Tigers.
Alabama wanted Williams. So did Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and South Carolina. And Alabama fans wanted Williams to pick the Crimson Tide.
“There’s all kinds of pressure,” Williams’ high school coach Eldrick Hill told SEC Country last summer. “I was in the grocery store the other day, didn’t even know a guy. He came up to me. He knew I was the head coach. He said, ‘You better make sure that kid goes to ‘Bama.’ Things like that are regular … Cottondale is basically Tuscaloosa.”
But Williams decided to go to Auburn — a decision he felt comfortable making from the first time he went to campus.
“I just knew that it was the school for me, and I needed to be there,” Williams said. “They were just the right school. The first time I went there, I knew that was the opportunity for me. I wanted to be there. It just stood out from the first time I got onto campus.”
At Auburn, the recruiting victory was massive. Williams was ranked as the No. 5 player in the state. Auburn hasn’t had a letterman from Tuscaloosa since the 1970s. No other former Tigers have called Cottondale their hometown.
“He’s a great athlete from Tuscaloosa,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said in December. “We haven’t gotten many guys from there in the past.”
Since Williams made his decision, he hasn’t had any problems with Alabama fans. The comments he gets are lighthearted in nature.
Those rival fans include his parents — an Alabama fan mother and an LSU fan father who “just cheers for the SEC,” according to Williams.
Williams’ family, along with the Cottondale residents who know him best, are happy to see Williams get an opportunity to play SEC football.
“The Alabama fans all around here, there wasn’t too much grief on me,” Williams said. “They were really just excited that I went somewhere and did something with it.”