Jaden Williams

Jaden Williams (50) gestures during a football game. The senior at Campbell Hall in North Hollywood verbally committed to Wyoming this week.

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LARAMIE — Jaden Williams is looking for a Hollywood ending on the High Plains.

The 6-foot-4, 248-pound defensive tackle prospect from Inglewood, California, who hasn’t even registered a star rating with the recruiting services, verbally committed to Wyoming this week.

Williams overcame tragedy during an inspired senior season at Campbell Hall in North Hollywood, which led to a scholarship offer from head coach Craig Bohl in October.

After feeling at home during a visit to UW’s campus last weekend, Williams decided to announce he was taking his talents from Los Angeles to Laramie on Monday night.

“I just feel like it’s a great fit for me to get out of the city life, go settle down in Wyoming and focus on my craft and my future,” Williams told the Star-Tribune. “That’s really what I want to do, honestly. It’s really exciting to commit there. I really like the school.”

Some other Mountain West programs, including Nevada and UNLV, have shown interest in Williams but did not make room for the big guy in their 2022 classes.

UW running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Gordie Haug was able to help close the deal after longtime defensive line coach Pete Kaligis left for Washington State last week.

Luke Roaten, a two-star defensive tackle prospect from Tomball, Texas, de-committed from the Cowboys on Tuesday. The addition of Williams keeps UW at 11 known verbal commitments for this cycle.

“It kind of opened my eyes,” Williams said of the recruiting process. “It was mind blowing, to say the least, having coaches thinking I’m good enough to play for their college and telling me all these types of things. It was really exciting.

“The commitment part was crazy. I was really excited when I got out there and saw Wyoming. The players showed me the real, just told me how it was going to be every day, how it was going to be during the season as a player with the coaches.”

Williams is motivated to make this most of this opportunity as a promise to his mother, Cleo, who died in March after suffering an aneurysm.

Campbell Hall coach Dennis Keyes marveled as Williams’ academic and football performance dramatically improved despite the shattering personal loss he was dealing with.

“He’s kind of had a rough go of it this year losing his mom,” Keyes said. “From that moment on, Jaden has kind of transformed himself into a new man almost. His maturity level has gone up exponentially.

“His drive and his commitment to be the best he can be, fulfilling the promises he made to his mom, has been impressive to watch and witness firsthand.”

Playing football this fall was a welcome distraction for Williams. He made life miserable for opposing quarterbacks on the defensive line, helped protect his quarterback as the left tackle and even returned a kickoff for a touchdown during Campbell Hall’s 10-0 regular season.

“Football helped him tremendously,” Keyes said. “I think for most youth, it’s an escape. Sports are an escape from their realities and whatever negativity is going on in their world. When they’re inside the lines, they can put themselves in a whole new world.

“For Jaden, that’s exactly what it was, a way for him to step away from the pain and the hurt of losing his mom and focus in on something else.”

Now Williams will be concentrating on continuing his rise with the Cowboys.

Bohl’s program has a tradition of developing lightly recruited prospects into all-MWC or even NFL players. The Josh Allen and Logan Wilson stories are the two most famous examples.

“He hasn’t even scratched the surface of what he’s capable of,” Keyes said of Williams. “That’s the exciting thing about him being in a program with Coach Bohl. That’s what they do. They develop these guys. They bring them in, they work with them and they build them up.

“There’s patience involved and there’s care involved in the process. That’s why I’m excited for Jaden to be there at Wyoming.”

About the only thing Keyes, a former standout at UCLA who played in the NFL for the Arizona Cardinals, doesn’t like about Williams going to UW is what those brown and gold colors remind him of.

The subject of the Bruins’ loss to the Cowboys in the 2004 Las Vegas Bowl, a game Keyes played in as a nickel back during his redshirt freshman season, did come up when Bohl stopped by his office at Campbell Hall.

“I told him I have a love-hate relationship,” Keyes said with a laugh. “I love them for giving Jaden an opportunity, but I’m still mad at them that they beat us.”

Williams understands what he will be signing up for when the letter-of-intent is sent in to the UW compliance office. The early signing period begins next Wednesday.

A lot of work will have to be put in over the years to script the Hollywood ending.

“I appreciate how honest (Bohl) is and how straightforward he is sometimes,” Williams said. “He’ll give you the real, let you know what you’re walking into. He’s not playing around and he wants you to be a part of what they’re building and their program. I like that.”

Follow UW beat writer Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn

This article originally ran on trib.com.


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