By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Gavin Williams didn’t wake up this past Friday knowing that he would commit to the Iowa football team before the day ended.
It just sort of worked out that way.
The standout running back, who transferred from Southeast Polk to West Des Moines Dowling Catholic over the winter break, had known for a while that he wanted to be a Hawkeye. And the more Williams thought about it on Friday and discussed it with his family, he figured why wait any longer. It was time for Williams to take the next step by committing.
“I was talking to my family and I was like why, why am I waiting if I already know where I want to go?” Williams said Monday in a telephone interview. “We just had multiple conversations about that. My parents kept talking to me about that just to make sure that regardless of the situation I still had the same plan and ideas.”
Williams turned down scholarship offers from Iowa State, Michigan and Nebraska in order to be a Hawkeye.
The Iowa program appealed to him for lots of reasons, but one thing in particular stood out to Williams.
“Iowa is like a family,” Williams said.
Iowa running backs coach Derrick Foster deserves much of the credit for making Williams feel comfortable and like part of the Hawkeye family.
“I can hang out with coach Foster and I have a good connection with him,” Williams said. “And that’s really important to me. I like having good relationships with my coaches, so I can get to know them and stuff like that.
“Coach Foster was really open and was really nice. I know he’s going to help me and look out for my best interests in life and help me grow as an athlete and a student.”
Lots of kids from Iowa grow up with the dream and the goal of being an Iowa football player, but Williams was different.
“Actually, I grew up a Florida Gators fans,” he said.
His connection to Iowa started during the recruiting process and has just kept getting stronger.
The 6-foot, 195-pound Williams has been a star at the high school level since he rushed for 805 yards as a freshman at Southeast Polk in 2016. He was offered a scholarship from both Iowa and Iowa State as a sophomore and offers from Michigan and Nebraska came soon after that.
Williams could have continued the recruiting process and basked in the glory of being a coveted prospect, but the process had started to wear on him.
“It’ll be helpful, especially during the summer, so I don’t have to worry about going to five or six different camps,” Williams said. “I can just go to one camp and then focus on my senior year. It can (wear on you).
“It was to the point where one weekend I was going to Iowa and the following weekend I was going to Iowa State. And then the next weekend I was driving out to Michigan and then like in the summer, I would go from one camp and then have to drive a couple hours and go to another camp and then drive three or four hours to another camp. It was just to the point where it was a hassle to do that. And then I would have to come back and go to camps with my team. It was just a lot.”
In addition to the family atmosphere, Williams also likes how Iowa uses its running backs. The offense strives for balance under Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, and under his son, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, but the running game often carries the load and sets the tone on offense.
“Any running back is going to look at that and be happy,” Williams said. “They just have a good way of balancing the pass and the run game.”
Williams just started his second week of classes at Dowling, which has won six consecutive Class 4A state titles in football.
His decision to transfer will prevent him from competing in track and field at the varsity level this spring due to the 90-day transfer rule. But Williams still plans to compete at the junior varsity level in order to work on his speed for football, and because he enjoys competing in track and field.
As for his reasons for transferring to Dowling, Williams thinks it will help him get better prepared for college.
“A state championship would be cool and everything,” Williams said. “But the reason I’m there is to get better. There are things that I need to work on and things that I need to get better at as a football player. I need to work on the little things to make me successful at the next level.”
Williams is the fourth member of the 2020 senior class to commit to Iowa and the first from in state. The others are Texas quarterback Deuce Hogan, Illinois defensive lineman Isaiah Bruce and Wisconsin defensive lineman Michael Lois.
Williams is ranked as a three-star recruit by Rivals and is considered the top recruit in the 2020 senior class in Iowa.