Quarterback Levi Williams is the Accidental Wyoming Cowboy and Couldn't Be Happier

Tracy Ringolsby

Levi Williams verbally committed to Houston in March of his junior year in high school, and declined offers to meet with staff members of other schools after that. He was the first recruit to turn in his signed letter of intent when the December 2018 signing date came. 

He had accelerated his high school education to be a mid-term grad with the idea he would enroll at Houston in the spring of 2019, but then, Major Applewhite, the head coach who recruited Williams, was fired. 

Dana Holgorsen, hired to replace Applewhite, didn't make any secrets about the fact his son was going to be the primary freshman quarterback, and made it clear he would welcome Williams' decommit.

He got it.

Williams? He found a new collegiate life -- at the University of Wyoming in a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction turn of events.

Unsure where he was going to wind up going to college he had just watched a video of the quarterbacks of the NFL draft class of 2018, featuring Josh Allen, when he received a twitter message from Wyoming offensive coordinator Brent Vigen.

Vigen had been in San Antonio for the College Football Coaches Convention and on his way back to Laramie read in the San Antonio newspaper about Williams' situation. Having not signed a quarterback during the early signing period, the Cowboys were in the market, and Vigen touched base with Bohl, who had stayed back in Texas for a few days.

The next day Bohl met with the Williams family. Two days later, Vigen showed up, The ensuing weekend, Williams and his parents visited Laramie, Before they left town, Williams had made his commitment official, even though several Power 5 schools had been in contact. 

"Call it intuition or a gut feeling," he said. "I knew it was the right place."

Even with Power 5 schools knocking on his door?

Yes, even with Power 5 schools showing interest.

"With Wyoming I know what I got," Williams said. "With a lot of Power 5 schools there is a lot of smoke and mirriors. ... and coach Vigen has two quarterbacks in the NFl who are doing well."

They were both first-round draft choices, too. Carson Wentz was a walk-on when Bohl and Vigen were at 1-AA North Dakota State who a 1st-round pick of the Eagles in 2016. Josh Allen, Buffalo's No. 1 pick two years ago, who after one-year in junior college sent 100 coaches packets in hope of getting a Division 1 opportunity, and accepted an offer from Wyoming -- the only school that responded, "

Will Chambers and Williams become the third and fourth NFL signal-callers for Vigen and Bohl? Time will tell.

What is known is that Williams and Chambers will both be in Laramie on Monday when members of football, men's basketball and women's basketball have been given permission to show up on campus and begin summer workouts.

Initially the players will be in limited groups for strength and conditioning programs. Before long, a summer practice will begin, and the Cowboy coaches will start to unravel what will be an interesting evaluation of how to balance the quarterback situation between Williams, who will be a redshirt freshman, and incumbent Sean Chambers, who will be a redshirt sophomore.

And then. ...

Time will tell.

There is speculation around the Mountain West that given the versatility of Williams and Chambers the Cowboys could actually create some offensive sets with both of them in the back field, along with junior running back Xazavian Valladay, a first-team All-Mountain West selection a year ago when he rushed for 1,061 in 11 regular-season games, reaching the 100-yard total six times.

What is known is the Cowboys have a promising 1-2 punch at quarterback, and in some form, both of them are expected to get playing time in every game the Cowboys play.

Chambers was the starting quarterback in the first eight games last fall before suffering a season-ending knee surgery. While Tyler Vander Waal initially took over at quarterback, Williams turned into such a quick study that Vander Waal transferred to Idaho State at season's end. 

Williams came off the bench to lead the Cowboys to a 17-7 victory against Colorado State in the 11th game of the season, completing two passes for 25 yards while rushing for 49 yards on 13 carries, going in from a yard out with 6:04 remaining in the third quarter for a 14-7 lead, and guiding the Cowboys to a fourth-quarter field goal.

Vander Waal started again in the regular-season finale at Air Force -- a 20-6 loss -- but Williams came off the bench to rush for 79 yards and pass for 84 yards, giving the Cowboys the confidence to turn the game plan over to Williams in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl on New Years Eve.

The Cowboys celebrated a 38-17 victory, Williams taking every snap from center, completing 11 of 26 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns, and rushing for 65 yards on 12 carries, scoring a touchdown.

That experience, along with the fact he was on hand for spring practice a year ago, before his freshman season, helps alleviate concerns about the fact the coronavirus forced a cancellation of the Cowboys spring practice this year.

The challenge for the Cowboys coaches is figuring out how to make use of the two talented quarterbacks.

What they do know is the similar style of Chambers and Williams will create a bigger challenge for opposing teams than when they had Chambers, known for his dual threat ability, and Vander Waal, who allowed defenses to become more focused on the passing game.

"The difference here is these two guys have more or less the same skill set," said Vigen. "If one goes down you don't have as much of a shift in the direction of the offense. They have the dual threat ability, where (the opposition) doesn't know if the are going to run or drop back in the pocket. 

"It keeps a defense off balance. It cannot over commit. It has to fear the quarterback's athletic ability."

For the Cowboys it is a luxury that few teams have.

"We haven't been in a situation where we had a 1A and a 1B." said Vigen. "Therese guys will benefit from both playing. What it is going to look like, how even the reps are going to be, I cant tell you. From a preparation standpoint, when you go through practice, knowing you are going to play at some point in the game your mindset is different.

"And I do think it will be a benefit to play two guys in games in some fashion. We're not going to run guys in and out on every series, and have guys afraid of losing their job. There are no promises. We know we have to be straight up, no surprises. How the time gets split only time will tell. But they are going going to get their chances."

It is that honesty from the staff that is part of the lure of the Cowboys, said Williams.

"I bought into Wyoming," said Williams. "The community definitely helped. I feel like we are family. In high school we had a rare program. The coach was kind of old school, like Bohl. He was a strict disciplinarian. High school was not about a single player. It was about a community of players, about a team. That's how it is at Wyoming. It's why it was so easy for me to buy in."

Wyoming wasn't a school that was on Williams' original recruiting radar.

The Cowboys, however, arrived just in time, and Williams couldn't be happier about that.

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PAlyssa
PAlyssa

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