Plant City wideout Mario Williams, one of the top wide receivers in the nation, finally put pen to paper Wednesday morning and will join the Oklahoma Sooners on the gridiron and the baseball diamond next season.
A lot can change in the time between a star recruit making a verbal commitment to play for a school and later sitting down to sign their national letter of intent. Fortunately for the University of Oklahoma and its fans, that was not the case for the top wide receiver prospect in the nation.
Seven months and one day after announcing his verbal commitment to the Sooners on Instagram Live, Plant City wideout Mario Williams put it in writing and signed his national letter of intent Wednesday morning in the school’s auditorium.
It was a long time coming for Williams, who detailed in a brief speech his early struggles with overcoming the doubts of others before blossoming into perhaps the best two-sport athlete Plant City High School has ever had on campus. Williams was quick to give credit to God and a strong support system of family, friends and coaches for helping him get this far.
“It was just a struggle when I was little because everybody in Little League, everybody was like ‘Oh, he’s not that good’ and stuff like that,” Williams said. “And Coach Chris and Coach Tony were like, ‘He’s gonna be a deal.’”
Williams is set to graduate early and will head to Norman, Oklahoma in January to enroll at OU and start the next chapter of his life.
If you can name an elite college football program, there’s a good chance it sent some scouts down to this corner of the Tampa Bay area to get a look at Plant City’s speedster. Williams picked the Sooners over other top-five options Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU. Given Williams’ speed, instincts, separation skills and creativity after the catch, Oklahoma’s offense was such a natural fit that no one in the national recruiting beat was surprised to see an OU shirt underneath Williams’ jacket when he unzipped it on that Instagram live story.
Williams finished the 2020 season with 740 receiving yards, eight touchdown catches, 141 kick return yards and 1,002 total yards through the Raiders’ nine games — ranking second among all players in each category. The Raiders experimented with him in the wildcat formation more than in the past, often in two-point conversion situations to either run it in or get the ball to Aramoni Rhone, and he also has a 65-yard touchdown pass to Reagan Ealy in his season resume.
In his four years and 40 games with the varsity football team, Williams hauled in 160 catches for 3,191 yards and 41 touchdowns, and he also finished with two completed passes on three attempts for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
“An incredible career,” PCHS head football coach James Booth said. “Probably the most decorated career we’ve had. We have an All-American on campus, which is unheard of. By far the best player in the county. We always tell our kids to strive to be the best, to be the best player on the team. He’s done that. Be the best player in the county — he’s done that. Be the best player in the state — he’s done that. OK, be the best player in the southeast — he’s done that. Be the best player in the nation — he’s done that.”
He also excelled on the baseball field and had a .316 batting average through seven games in 2020 before COVID-19 forced the season to end abruptly. Williams played a crucial role in the Raiders winning the school’s first-ever baseball state championship in 2019, not only bringing a hot bat and a knack for swiping bags to the offense but also routinely making highlight-reel catches with blazing speed and a slick glove while patrolling the outfield.
His coaches and principals spoke highly of his character above all else and said they’ll never forget the impact he had on their lives in the last four years.
“He was here last week with me sitting on the bench, hitting in the cage and stuff… and he says ‘Coach, I’m just glad we got a win,’” PCHS head baseball coach Mike Fryrear said. “I said, ‘Win?’ He goes, ‘You know what, a ring. I’m gonna miss you, Coach.’ That right there broke my heart, but it also makes me so happy to see a gentleman like this move on.”