Jilted in His Home State, Levi Williams Has Found a Home in Wyoming

Tracy Ringolsby

Tenth months after after Levi Williams had made his public commitment to the University of Houston, and slightly more than one month after Williams made it official by signing his letter of intent, he was blindsided.

Major Applewhite fired as the head coach at Houston, and his replacement, Dana Holgorsen let it be known that Williams may have a scholarship, but he wasn't going to have a role at Houston. Holgorsen's son, Logan, five inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter, was going to be the freshman quarterback.

"It was hard," admitted Williams, who calls Spring Branch, Tex., home. "It's not easy going from knowing exactly where you're going to go to know knowing at all. ... (Holgorsen) basically said he didn't see me as a fit in their program, and he was bring in his son, who was a quarterback. So I decided that it wasn't going to be the best fit for me."

He also decided to take a gamble and rescind his commitment to Houston. By mid-January most major college programs have their quarterback recruit under control, signing him during the early period in December, as Williams found out.

He had schools calling, like Baylor, TCU and Florida State. The best any could offer was a partial scholarship with the indication more could be supplied in another year or so.

And along came Wyoming, one of fewer than two dozen Division 1 schools that hadn't signed their quarterback for the recruiting season in December.

"All our guys have stories for how they ended up here, but his is as crazy as any of them," said Brent Vigen, the Cowboys assistant head coach/offensive coordinator. "I was coming home from the (college football coaches convention in San Antonio), and read an email from his coach contacting schools to let them now Levi was available.

"Coach was still down in San Antonio for the coaches convention and I called coach and told him we might have an answer. We were still holding out for a kid we had offered  who didn't sign with us before Christmas. We were about to move on from him because felt that was going the wrong way. (Peyton Matocha) ultimately was offered by Miami and went to Miami  (Fla.).

"In the midst of it, Levi becomes available and we were able to act real fast. Coach staying down in San Antonio to visit him, and I went down the next week. Levi and his parents came up the next weekend, and he was in school a couple weeks later."

As Bohl put it, "The stars were aligned right there."

It was a happy ending for Williams, as well. 

"God had a plan for me that I had no idea was going to happen," he said. "You think your world turns upside down when everything went down with Houston, and then he opened up a new path here. I love it here. I love the coaches. I love my teammates. It's awesome."

Even the weather, which was at five degrees when Williams made his Cowboys' debut in the Cowboys 17-7 victory over Colorado State in the Border War last Friday night, hasn't bothered him, although he admits it's a bit different from south central Texas.

"When I first got her (last January) it was definitely a shock," he said. "Snow on the ground for most of the spring when it is 70 or 80 degrees back home. That took a little bit. The elevation was probably the hardest thing to get used to. Took me probably two weeks to get used to it."

And then, after being designated a redshirt this season, leaving him with four years of eligiblity started next fall, Williams found himself making his college debut during the first half of the Cowboys win against Colorado State. 

And he may be new to the region, but he was well-versed of the special meaning that comes with that game.

"The seniors definitely made sure they got their point across, how important it was to the State, and it was Seniors Night so have to put on for those seniors, and the Colorado kids that chose Wyoming over Colorado State or CU," he said. "It's really important. you have to win this game."

The Cowboys did win the game, and Williams did play a roll, sharing time with Tyler Vander Waal, who was making his fourth start since No. 1 quarterback Sean Chambers was sidelined for the rest of the season with a torn meniscus in his left knee. In fact, it was Vander Waal and Williams who scored the two Cowboy touchdowns, both on one-yard plunges -- Vander Waal eight seconds into the second quarter for a 7-0 lead, and Williams with 5:41 remaining in the third quarter for a 14-7 lead.

"The composure he showed for a guy playing his first game was the impressive thing," said Vigen. "He protected the football pretty well. He ran the offense, operated the clock, all those things you take for granted with an experienced guy. He did them well."

And there was a moment of that Sean Chambers flair when with the clock running out Williams rushed on a 4th-and-2 from the Rams 28 for 19 yards to the CSU 9.

"They are cut out of a similar mode," said Vigen. "Both run the ball well. Both are good athletes. Both are very competitive."

And neither likes to slide.

"We went through it (Monday)," said Vigen with a smile. "You get first down and game is over, you should go down. The last play of the game was his longest run."

And despite a single digit temperature at game time the Wyoming fans made their impression on Williams, who saw a crowd of more than 21,000 including a packed student section.

"Pleasantly surprised," said Williams, "but you know we have the best fans in the nation so they are going to come out no matter what."

And Williams has given the fans even another reason to show up.

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