2017 All-Centex team: Cedar Ridge defensive tackle puts football first

Cedar Ridge senior Daymond Williams doesn’t try to hide his feelings for his first sports love, basketball. He shows an appreciation for the game whether he’s slipping no-look passes to his teammates or helping out with vigor on defense. It’s the sport he played while growing up in Round Rock, and, heck, even his Twitter profile lists his Snapchat handle as “getbucketz4.”

That said, Williams also appreciates the direction of his athletic future. There aren’t many 6-foot-1, 250-pound basketball players like Williams pounding the hardcourt for college teams, and that’s why he will join the football team at Trinity Valley Community College in the fall with the hope of building on a promising start as a defensive tackle.

“I’ve always known that I was pretty good at football, but I was always focused on basketball,” said Williams, who earned one of the three first-team defensive lineman spots on the American-Statesman’s 2017 All-Central Texas football team. “But when coach Bell and the new coaches came in (at Cedar Ridge), they convinced me that I had a future in football.”

Williams was referring to Shawn Bell, who spent just the 2016 season as Cedar Ridge’s head coach before taking a job with the Baylor football program. However, the coaching staff Bell brought to the Round Rock campus remains almost intact, and current Raiders head coach Sam Robinson, who worked as the defensive coordinator under Bell, made wringing fulfilled potential out of Williams one of his 2017 goals.

“He’s always had the talent, but he’s just shown more self-discipline when it comes to football,” Robinson said. “With more reps, he’s gotten better and better. He’s relentless, more than any kid that we have.”

For years, Williams showed that kind of relentlessness while focusing on basketball. He did not play football as a sophomore, choosing to spend his summer months touring the state with his AAU hoops teammates instead of in the weight room. His dedication showed on the hardcourt, where Williams developed into a creative ball-handler for fourth-year Cedar Ridge boys basketball coach Quinton Black.

“He liked to penetrate and get into the paint to create for others or for himself,” Black said. “And he worked hard to develop an outside shot. He’s put the time in; he’s very dedicated and committed to getting better.”

In the past year, Williams turned more of his attention to football and developed into one of the more disruptive defensive linemen in the state.

After playing what Robinson estimated to be “30 or 40” snaps as a junior, Williams became a full-time starter this season and responded with 66 tackles — including 23 for losses and 19 sacks — for the Raiders, who finished 13-2 in the best season in school history. Almost half of Williams’ sacks came during a dominant stretch in the playoffs, when Cedar Ridge beat Coppell and Hendrickson before falling to eventual Class 6A, Division I state champion Allen.

“This year, it all clicked,” Robinson said. “You’re talking third, fourth, fifth round of the playoffs, and Daymond is standing out. You’d come away from that game as a neutral observer, asking, ‘Who’s No. 90?’ ”

Williams’ success, especially against highly recruited offensive linemen from the suburban Dallas powers of Allen and Coppell, also served as an affirmation of sorts for the senior, who will next suit up for a junior college powerhouse that has produced a litany of FBS players.

“He came in after the Coppell game and said, ‘Man, coach, I’m alright, aren’t I?’ ” Robinson said of Wiliams. “I told him, ‘You’re the real deal.’ We’ve talked with him and said, ‘Look you have a bright future. Just take care of your business.’

“There are some DI schools that know where he’s going; they have their eye on him. His ceiling is still way up there.”

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