For Glenbard South senior and Notre Dame football commit Cam Williams, the wait is over
Cam Williams wants that prize.
He wants that Sun Bowl gear the University of Notre Dame football program is giving its Class of 2024 recruits who sign their National Letter of Intent to the Fighting Irish the closest to 7 a.m. Wednesday, the first Early Signing Day for football.
Williams will be ready.
“I’ll be sitting on my computer and submitting right at 7 o’clock,” he said.
When he does, Notre Dame also will be receiving a prize as part of the nation’s No. 8 football recruiting class, according to Rivals.com.
Williams, 6-foot-2 and 194 pounds, is a two-time Class 5A all-state receiver ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 10 receiver nationally in the Class of 2024, the No. 35 recruit overall and No. 2 in Illinois behind only St. Ignatius defensive tackle Justin Scott, headed to Miami.
Williams, also conducting a signing ceremony at Glenbard South at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, picked the Irish from among 24 scholarship offers.
A 4.47 sprinter with a standing broad jump greater than 10 feet as recorded at Notre Dame’s 2022 “Irish Invasion” prospect camp, Williams set Glenbard South program records for receptions, yards receiving, total touchdowns, points scored and yards per catch -- an exceptional 21.5 yards for each of his 121 receptions.
After Williams ran his 40-yard dash at the Invasion, Glenbard South football coach Ryan Crissey said Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman told Crissey and Raiders receivers coach Joe Kish that Williams was faster than any Fighting Irish freshman or sophomore receiver then in the program. Notre Dame is not allowed to comment to the media about recruits until they sign, under NCAA rules.
This season, his third as an all-Upstate Eight Conference pick, Williams caught 37 passes for 909 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also ran for 468 yards, 6 touchdowns, and compiled 761 yards on kickoff and punt returns, averaging 47.8 yards on the former, 28.3 yards on the latter.
Invited to play in the All-American Bowl Jan. 6 in San Antonio, on Wednesday Williams will have his eyes on that new prize.
Despite the departure of former Notre Dame receivers coach Chansi Stuckey, who led Williams’ recruitment for the Irish along with former Lake Forest quarterback Tommy Rees, Williams has not wavered in his commitment since accepting Rees’ scholarship offer before his junior season, on June 29, 2022.
“It’ll be a sigh of relief, like now it’s go-time,” said Williams, who will graduate from Glenbard South early and start classes at Notre Dame in January.
“I still have other stuff to complete -- housing form, that boring stuff. But I think when I (sign) it’ll be like the long wait I’ve been able to get through will finally be over. And it all took work. A lot of stressful moments.”
Endless text messages sent and received. Visits official and unofficial. Social media posts from Irish fans and alumni, not all of them nice.
Heck, Cam said his grandfather, Danny, is likely to show up to a Notre Dame game “wearing something Michigan” -- one of Williams’ finalists along with Iowa, Cincinnati and Wisconsin.
Yet those stressful moments seem to be like the proverbial water off a duck’s back.
In Crissey’s office at Glenbard South, or strolling around the gym and hallways, the easy-to-smile Williams showed the lived-in demeanor of a young man secure in himself and where he’s going.
It’s helped Williams meet Notre Dame’s stringent academic standards. It’s the confidence in his game, and his flat-out speed that raised eyebrows at the Irish Invasion as Williams scorched top cornerback prospects on pass routes.
“Comfortable in his own skin is a great way to describe him,” said Jeff Richardson, director of Acceleration Sports Performance at Naperville Yard, where Williams has trained on and off since his sophomore year. Williams transferred to Glenbard South from Montini after his freshman year.
“I think he’s very, very confident in himself and his own abilities, and I think you need that to perform at a high level,” Richardson said. “I don’t think it’s too cocky or over the top, but it’s something that all elite athletes kind of have, just a firm belief in themselves.”
Michael Champagne, the Raiders’ three-year starting quarterback bound for Washington University in St. Louis, saw it -- and couldn’t believe East Aurora kicked off to Williams in the 2023 season opener.
Williams took it for an 80-yard touchdown return, one of his program-record 5 TDs including 3 touchdown catches and a 60-yard punt return.
“Obviously a mistake,” Champagne said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a human being run that fast in my life. He just got it, he found a crease and he was gone.”
Crucial intangibles are as much a part of Williams as his speed, sticky hands, athleticism and work ethic.
“He always feels very responsible, he never gets in trouble and he’s just a very caring and genuine person that a lot of people like,” Champagne said.
Crissey credits that to Williams’ parents, Cynthia, owner of Holistic Integrative Wellness Centre in Oakbrook Terrace; and Marshawn, a personal trainer at Lifetime Fitness in Bloomingdale.
“Cam’s a really modest kid, which is wonderful. It’s how he was raised. His mother and father, his aunts and uncles are all very highly educated people,” Crissey said.
The coach called Williams the most gifted athlete the Raiders program has fielded and believes he’ll enjoy a decorated career. Beyond football, though, a Notre Dame education and its alumni network also led Williams to this moment.
“Kind of like a ticket to be successful, in my opinion. I was thinking one day, if you have the opportunity to go here, why would you even think to pass that up or not consider it?” Williams said.
Yes, why? It’s go-time. Get that prize.
“I’d love to start Day One,” Williams said, “but I’m not going to say, ‘I’m here to start Day One.’ It’s more like I’m here to do the things that can get me to eventually start, whether that’s Day One or Day 90.”