It isn’t an easy decision.
Follow the well traveled trail to the more traditional college football powerhouses, or forge your own path and potentially make history?
Each year the top high school football talent within the state of Indiana faces that decision, and plenty have ultimately journeyed beyond the borders of the Hoosier State.
There is a certain undeniable allure and prestige attached to playing at an Ohio State or Michigan, just for example. But with those opportunities comes risk — of getting lost in the shuffle along with all the other top talent.
Some are drawn to something altogether different.
For freshman linebacker Cam Williams, it was the very idea of creating something special at Indiana that ultimately led to his commitment to IU last December.
“I didn’t want to go to a school that was big already,” Williams said. “That’s old news. Me, I wanted to make a legacy here. And that’s a big part of why I came here. And I saw a lot of people committing that could help me do that.”
Two people that the Merrillville, Ind. native saw commit before him in the class of 2019 were fellow Hoosier natives.
According to most recruiting services, the local trio were the top three recruits in what was IU’s best ever class in the rankings era.
As you would expect, they have a lot of pride in wearing that “Indiana” across their chests.
“It’s a really cool thing to play for your home state,” Robbins said.
Williams sensed that there was something different about the IU program during his visits. He even got a vibe from the fans.
“It wasn’t just the coaches,” Williams said. “It was the fan base. I loved coming to the games. Every time I came here it was just a different atmosphere. And I could see people at the time that were actually hungry to make the team better and the school better.”
For James, who flipped his commitment from Ohio State to Indiana, it all started with a belief in the program that Tom Allen is building in Bloomington.
“I believe in the program,” James said. “I believe in all of the guys, all of the coaches, the strength staff. Everything that we do here I believe in.”
The group passed on an impressive list of offers to take a chance and follow their instincts to IU.
James of course passed up playing for Ohio State, and also had offers from just about every other top program including Michigan, Michigan State, Georgia, Florida State, Penn State and Notre Dame.
Robbins passed up offers from Nebraska and Michigan State among others.
Williams’ list included schools that have had more recent success than IU including Arizona, Kentucky and Purdue.
It’s clear that these three young Hoosiers gave up allure and prestige to be a part of something.
Their pride, hunger and belief are all nice, and must haves, but a lot of young talented players have had those qualities through the years when they stepped foot on campus in Bloomington as freshmen.
It doesn’t appear as though this particular group of freshmen, led by Indiana kids, is going to be content with just state pride and big aspirations.
Collectively, the 2019 class has adopted the name “New Wave” to reflect not only the infusion of new talent, but also a new mentality.
“I’m looking to change the culture around completely,” Williams said. “We call it the new wave for a reason. I look to prove that name.”
For Williams, it starts with owning the change mentality — and carrying it around with him in everything that he is doing to get ready for his first season of college football.
“I just try every day to remember why I’m here,” Williams said. “I’m trying to get everybody motivated here and I’m trying to make sure that IU makes a statement this year.”
Part of the draw to coming to Indiana as opposed to a traditional power is a more clear path to early playing time.
In 2018, 17 true freshmen saw the field for the Hoosiers, and five played in all 12 games according to The Hoosier Network.
If you’ve got the goods, you can play from day one at Indiana.
Williams’ particular formula to see the field early at IU is his speed.
With a 6-foot-3, 215 pound frame as a high school senior, the former track star was a state qualifier in the 110-meter hurdles at Andrean.
“I feel like my quick burst speed is a big reason why they brought me here,” Williams said. “I know that I’m different when it comes to that. I know that I’ve got top of the line, best in the country type speed on the field.”
As it goes with high major college football freshmen, the impact felt on the IU program by Williams, Robbins and James probably won’t be of the quick burst variety.
But all three are likely to contribute in 2019.
And by the time the New Wave is cresting as upperclassmen?
Williams sees a tsunami, that crashes through many of the schools that they passed on to play for Indiana.
“I’m looking to break thresholds here,” Williams said. “I want to bring IU to greatness.”
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