There is an alternate timeline where Ohio State running back Miyan Williams is currently playing for Iowa State and leading the Cyclones to contention in the Big XII.
Williams, who played at Winton Woods High School in Cincinnati, was once committed to Iowa State, and was so without having been extended an Ohio State offer. He was a 3-star prospect in the class of 2020, and while the Buckeyes liked him, they were in on a number of other top prospects, such as 5-star Arizona tailback Bijan Robinson.
One of the downsides of recruiting at a place like Ohio State is that they can’t take everybody, and players that they really like end up elsewhere.
“It’s tough. You know, it’s hard. But that’s part of being part of a program like this when you start recruiting guys,” OSU running backs coach Tony Alford said. “And I think the hardest part about recruiting is you build these impeccable relationships with kids and families. Sometimes you get them, right? There’s sometimes when eventually you’ve got to turn and walk away from them, where you had a scholarship as you’re going, and then all of a sudden you don’t. And so that’s hard.
“It’s hard to look young people in the face and say, ‘I know you may want to be here, but we just don’t have room.’ But that’s the business side of it. I’m a firm believer too at the end of the day, if you build those relationships the right way, kids and coaches are all diligent about the work that we do, that everybody eventually fits where they’re supposed to fit.”
Alford did his best to build that relationship with Williams, and when Robinson informed Ohio State that he was going to commit to Texas instead, they moved forward with an offer to the in-state tailback.
“We were on some other guys. He was always right there and we were always talking to him,” Alford explained. “But at the end of the day, we didn’t know where it was going, and then we kind of fell back into his lap a little bit. And then he had some decision to make, because remember, he was committed to Iowa State.”
It wasn’t easy going for Alford and the Buckeyes, however. They offered Miyan Williams in September and were hoping for a visit, but it never happened. Williams is a pretty quiet guy, but for Alford, he was almost too quiet.
“He could probably tell you more about it, but I mean, quite frankly, I think he was pretty pissed at me. Well, no, he was pissed at me,” Alford said. “And I’ve told this story before that, long story short is, first impressions do go a long way, but they also can be wrong sometimes too. And like I said, he didn’t talk much. He kind of sat there and didn’t say much. He wasn’t very responsive to things that I was trying to say to him or do with him, as far as calls and text messages and driving an hour and a half up here. So I was like, ‘well, maybe he doesn’t want to be recruited by us.'”
Alford suspects that Williams felt slighted at where he stood on Ohio State’s running back board, which is always a tricky situation for coaches to navigate. Coaches tell recruits how much they love them, but when it comes to offers and being able to commit, players quickly find out that love has different levels to it.
Alford worked on building a better relationship with Williams, which was an ongoing process, but he also wanted to apologize for making a judgment based on first impressions.
“As I got to know him, I did, I went down to him, and I remember sitting him down in the weight room and we’re sitting there, and I did, I said, ‘I have to apologize to you. Whether you come to Ohio State or not, I have to clear my chest here. I have to apologize to you because I had the wrong impression of you. And I was wrong,'” Alford recounted. “And I like to think that was probably a big moment in our relationship that, ‘Hey, I was wrong.’ And as I got to know him more, I saw this kid’s got something about him. And he may not talk a lot on the onset, but he’s listening and hearing everything. And he’s about as respectful of a young man as you can get.”
A little over three weeks after Alford sat down with Williams and cleared the air, he committed to the Buckeyes.
Now, nearly three years later, the one-time future-Cyclone is one of the best running backs in the nation. He is leading the Buckeyes with 497 yards rushing in five games, and he leads the Big Ten with an average of 7.8 yards per carry.
Miyan Williams excels at being underestimated. He has basically weaponized first impressions at this point.
It’s the lasting impressions, however, that continue to leave wide swaths of grass in his wake.