Kendall Williams started playing football in New Orleans.
He ran around middle school defenses in Atlanta.
He was the star of his high school team in Little Rock, Arkansas.
And he started questioning his desire to play the game in a town most need a map to identify — Russellville, Arkansas.
“Honestly, I thought I was done,” Williams said. “I didn’t think I was going to continue playing football.”
Instead, the class of 2015 running back committed to Rich Rodriguez and Arizona on Monday afternoon. Williams will have two seasons of eligibility remaining and will arrive in January 2015.
“It’s been a journey,” Williams said.
Born in New Orleans, Williams moved to Atlanta in sixth grade when Hurricane Katrina forced him out of Louisiana. The running back then relocated to Arkansas prior to ninth grade and attended North Little Rock High.
He put together a stellar high school career, but didn’t have any Division I offers.
Williams signed with Arkansas Tech in Russellville, but left the school after one semester and exited the football program before that.
“That just wasn’t the right situation,” Williams said.
His plan was to move back to Little Rock and move on from the sport.
But a trainer with Arkansas Tech knew of an assistant coach at Butte Community College in California and passed on Williams’ information to him. Shortly after, Williams found himself in Oroville, California, enrolled at Butte in time for the 2013 season.
He ran for 1,156 yards and nine touchdowns and helped lead the Roadrunners to a 12-0 season.
The running back, ranked as a three-star prospect by the Scout.com recruiting service, started getting interest from Arizona, Iowa State, Illinois, Tennessee and a few other schools after the season, but only one — Georgia State — offered a scholarship.
Williams then visited Tucson this past weekend and participated in Rodriguez’s one-day prospect camp Saturday. After a strong showing, Rodriguez offered Williams a scholarship Monday over the phone.
After a quick call to his crying mom, Williams called the UA coach back and committed to the Wildcats.
He instantly thought of Russellville.
“All that stuff just relayed in my mind,” Williams said. “My mom was on the other end of the phone crying because she knows my situation. I’m just soaking it all up and thanking God, really.”
Williams spent three days in Tucson and said he should get back for a game this season. He was hoping Arizona would offer him a scholarship after he left and he got his wish later in the day.
“It was an amazing visit,” Williams said. “I fell in love with the stadium, the facilities, the coaching staff, everything. I put up some great numbers when I was there and had a great visit.”
Williams is the ninth commitment of the 2015 class for Arizona and the second running back to pledge. Dami Ayoola, who began his career at Illinois before transferring to Arizona Western, committed to the UA last month.
The Wildcats could have as many as seven running backs on scholarship when Ayoola and Williams get here. Jared Baker, Pierre Cormier, Zach Green, Jonathan Haden and Nick Wilson should all be on the roster.