The ball had to be in the hands of Jameson Williams.
So as Williams matriculated through his formative football years, he naturally gravitated to the running back position. The ball had to be in his hands.
Somewhere around Williams’ sophomore year of high school, however, when Brandon Gregory ascended to the head coaching post at St. Louis’ Cardinal Ritter College Prep, Gregory envisioned Williams as a perimeter predator. He had watched Williams’ frame as it continued to stretch toward its current 6-foot, 1.5-inch length and knew elite speed eviscerated foes in open spaces.
“When I got here, with that speed, you want to get him out in open space,” Gregory told Lettermen Row. “At the end of the day, it was kind of scary. He hasn’t played wide receiver his whole life; he actually was a running back.
“But there are things still there that can make him even more special. Once he started going to camps going into spring of his junior year, that’s when I realized he had that NFL speed.”
In fact, Gregory had looked at Williams and immediately pictured arguably the all-time fastest Buckeyes wideout. This was long before Williams inked as part of Ohio State’s 2019 signing class and the first of the Ryan Day era. Before Williams taxed foes for nearly 3,000 yards and 37 touchdowns combined across his junior and senior seasons.
“I was comparing Jameson to some of other wide receivers in our area, and the biggest thing with Jameson, Jameson has NFL first two rounds speed,” Gregory said. “Everybody can catch, has got routes they can run.
“But it’s funny: Before Jameson even considered Ohio State, I had told him he reminded me of Ted Ginn, and then when he went to the Ohio State spring game and took that picture with Ted Ginn, I was thinking: ‘He has that next-level NFL Draft first two days speed.’ You can’t take that away.”
Rarely ever did Gregory want to take away Williams’ speed or remarkable competitive spirit. But the combination of those two factors did lead Gregory to some Rolaids-moments when Williams served as punter.
“We lost our punter to a torn ACL Jameson’s junior year, and he said, ‘Coach, I can punt and I can kick,’” Gregory said. “But sometimes, I’d have to hold my breath and he’d go try to get 17 on fourth-and-17.
“He’s such a competitor, he did try it one time and came up a yard short. But he’s just such a competitor; he wanted to go down as a gunner [on coverage], wanted to be deep on kick-off return and of course he was. At one point we were going to put him at quarterback, just to put the ball in his hands and let him go.”
Williams’ selfless example might be what Gregory will miss the most as he transitions his program into a new era.
“Man, it’s really when you’ve got so many guys looking up to him and for the younger guy to see it, it helps your program,” said Gregory, who also coached Williams in track and saw the Williams-led 4x400-meter relay team recently set a new state record. “We’re getting ready for next season and we got a team text, and Jameson was still active in it and when I deleted his name, it felt weird, like ‘Damn, Jameson’s gone.’
“Other seniors had been tapped out but he was still communicating with the younger guys. To be honest, I’m probably going to put him back in there because he’s going to be calling me and checking on the guys.”
While Williams keeps long-distance tabs on his former teammates, he has been more than ready for the Ohio State transition, his coach explained.
“From a maturity standpoint, he outgrew everything,” Gregory said. “It was almost time for him to leave in January. He had done everything he could do and it would have been great to get him up there to Columbus in January. He didn’t belong in a good way. It’s time for that kid to move on and he’s ready for the next chapter.”
Based on his track record, odds are it won’t take long for Jameson Williams to find that football back in his hands again at Ohio State.