Salpointe's Jay Williams manages to deflect a pass over Mountain View's Brandon Cruz and teammate Kevin Hamlett in the fourth quarter at Salpointe Catholic High School, Friday, November 9, 2012.

Kelly Presnell/Arizona Daily Star

Salpointe’s Jay Williams deflects a pass over Mountain View’s Brandon Cruz and teammate Kevin Hamlett in a game last season.

Since Aug. 2, we have featured our picks of Southern Arizona’s top preseason high school football players.

Today, we conclude our countdown to the season with Salpointe Catholic’s Jay Williams, a three-year starter at safety and first-team All-Southern Arizona selection last year.

The rundown: Jay Williams, RB/S, 5-9, 180, Salpointe Catholic, senior

Who he is: A four-year varsity player, Williams went from Pop Warner to practicing against and playing with some of the state’s best high school players and plenty of Division-I bound talent at Salpointe. Working with both the freshman and junior varsity in the summer of 2010, Williams caught the varsity coaches’ attention and was invited to try out. Within weeks, Williams had worked his way into a starting spot at safety by the opener which he’s held for the past three seasons. With over 30-plus starts under his belt, Williams has become a natural leader for the Lancers. Averaging 60 tackles and three takeaways per season, Williams has successively earned Southern Arizona honorable mention, second-team and most recently first-team honors in 2012. For the first time in his Salpointe career, Williams is also expected to see time on offense as part of a time-share at running back. Looking to ride the hot hand this season, Lancers coach Dennis Bene expects Williams’ to see significant carries. The senior proved last year he’s a threat to score any time he touches the ball, returning two of his four interceptions for touchdowns.

Proof he’s good: A Tucson native, Williams spent the summer visiting Ivy League schools including Cornell, Dartmouth, Pennsylvania. While making his first trip back east, Williams participated in camps at Cornell and Dartmouth. After impressing at Cornell, Williams, a 4.0 student with an eye on success after football, understands the admissions process might be harder than the athletics. Also receiving interest from San Diego, Williams has all the intangibles to make Division I college teams regret overlooking him because of his stature.

He said it: “He’s just a really tough kid and he knows the game really well. He’s an undersized guy so he has to be really physical. He’s always been known for being a hitter, even as a freshman. He earned his teammates’ and his coaches’ respect early on. The guy plays with passion.” – Bene