Jordan Williams kept the faith.
Williams, an Oswego East senior, watched during the fall and winter as teammates and friends found college homes. And he waited.
"At times, it was frustrating; you're wondering what you're doing wrong," Williams said. "But we're a big religious family. I put my faith in God, and let him take care of everything. Do what I have to do, get good grades, be in the weight room and be good in the community and let the rest take care of itself."
Williams' patience paid off.
Eastern Illinois, after a coaching change, returned his interest. He visited the Charleston campus in January, committing on-site.
Williams made it official Wednesday, signing with the Division I FSC school out of the Ohio Valley Conference as a preferred walk-on. He joined other players firming their decisions on the second national signing day of the school year.
Williams, who played all over the field at Oswego East – cornerback, running back, special teams, even quarterback as a junior – has been recruited by Eastern Illinois as a defensive back, and will play either safety or cornerback.
Williams also weighed a Division II offer from Indianapolis, among others, but ultimately playing Division I football was a dream he couldn't pass up.
'"It's an opportunity to play and prove to myself that this is where I should be," Williams said. "This is what I have worked for."
Williams as a senior intercepted four passes, two returned for touchdowns, for an Oswego East defense that posted six shutouts.
He first reached out to Eastern Illinois late last year, but never heard back. That changed when Adam Cushing, a Northwestern assistant, was hired as its new head coach Dec. 7.
Oswego East coach Tyson LeBlanc received a call from new Panthers' cornerbacks coach Benny Boyd, who also happens to be his cousin.
"I had sent Jordan's info to the prior staff and didn't hear back, and it didn't cross my mind when the new staff came in," LeBlanc said. "[Boyd] said 'Can Jordan play at this level' and I said 'Yeah' and it went from there. Jordan is an intelligent kid, good grades, no character issues, it's an easy sell."
LeBlanc said he believes Williams would have been a Division I scholarship player, had it not been for injuries.
Williams hurt his knee playing basketball as a freshman. The summer before his junior year he tore his Achilles, he returned Week 4 and was thrown into the quarterback spot.
"He is a guy that would have been at that level," LeBlanc said. "He is a real physical kid, he has a great work ethic, he's very coachable, he's played 1,000 different positions for us. He was going to have opportunities to play college regardless. It was a perfect place, at the perfect time."
It helps that Williams will have a few familiar faces in Charleston. D.J. Perry and quarterback Jaylon Banks, redshirt sophomores at Eastern Illinois, are former teammates at Oswego East. The Panthers' coaching staff liked Williams' physicality, his nose for the football and his overall character. Williams said he fell in love with the campus on his visit, and had to tell coach Cushing he was committing before he left.
"For me it's definitely a weight off of my shoulders, a big stress off of me," Williams said. "It was relatively close to home, a good program, I felt like it could be a good fit for me."
Here is a list of area football players signing, as provided by coaches.
Dylan Cullick, Monmouth; Luke Hunter, Monmouth; Cortlund Adams, Dubuque; Noah Parker, Dubuque; Charles Coleman, Minnesota State; Jamal Fomby Jr., Grand Valley State; Cole Kiesewetter, Northern Michigan; John Luke Patterson, Wayne State; Jake Duncan, Berry.
Jordan Williams, Oswego East; Charlie Caruso, Upper Iowa; Nick Boissiere, Indianapolis; Stone Gorman, Minnesota State; Justin Clark, Northern Illinois (in December).
Bryson Schmidt, Iowa; Ernesto Rosales, Concordia-Chicago.
Jacob Brooks, Augustana; Josh Schroeder, Northwood; Phil LoChirco, Wheaton; Cade Henry, UW-River Falls.