Buena receiver Deonte Williams, left, caught 58 passes for 1,103 yards as a junior. Five of his TDs were from 50-plus yards out.

Kelly Presnell / Daily Star 2013

Over the next 12 days, we will feature Southern Arizona’s top football players. Our list continues today with Sierra Vista Buena’s Deonte Williams, who gave up basketball to focus perfecting his gridiron skills.

Deonte Williams

The rundown: Deonte Williams, WR/FS, 6-4, 190, Sierra Vista Buena, senior

Who he is: A devastating deep-threat receiver with elite size and speed. After seeing some time on the field as a sophomore, including in the Colts’ first-round loss to Mesa Red Mountain, Williams wasted no time making an impact once his name rose to the top of the depth chart in 2013. The junior surpassed 125 yards in five of his first six games, including a season-high 182 in a blowout win against Douglas. By season’s end, the prototypical wideout ranked in the top 10 of Division II in both receptions (58) and yards (1,103). The only area in need of improving for Williams was scoring, as the majority of his five touchdowns came from more than 50 yards out. With Buena’s other top receiver Ben Sims graduated, Williams said he’s worked on improving his red zone routes to become a more reliable scoring threat. Co-interim coach Brice Bernbeck, who was an assistant last year, said that in addition to his wide-ranging skillset, Williams also has a strong football I.Q. and a high work ethic. One way he proved his dedication was by hanging up his basketball sneakers before last season. Williams said the decision was tough because the sport had been a part of his life for as long as he could remember. He had talent too, appearing in 29 of 31 games on varsity as a sophomore. But his concentration on football helped Williams bring his name into the forefront last season — now he’s ready to take the next step. Williams’ only official offer has come from NAIA’s Arizona Christian, but he’s been in touch with Division I schools and attended the Los Angeles Nike Football training camp in March as well as camps at UA and San Diego State.

Why he’s good: His willingness to do the dirty work. Williams will be the first to tell you he was too lanky last season. Yet that didn’t stop him from being one of the best blocking receivers in the state, according to Bernbeck. Every play Williams looked to make an impact, and if the ball didn’t come his way, he was just as happy to set a block in the secondary to open a hole for a teammate. After hitting the weight room all summer, Williams said he can already see the results in practice. He’ll also have a chance to show his increased physicality on defense, as he’s added safety to his responsibilities.

He said it: “I’m becoming more of a vocal leader and a leader with my actions. Last year we didn’t really have that vocal leader role, it was kind of shaky — nobody wanted to step up. I’m embracing the role this year, making sure the younger guys can look up to somebody so they can do the right thing. So they can one day lead Buena.” – Williams