By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
MONROVIA – Luke Williams noticed a stark difference during an invitation-only combine workout at Arizona State in June.
Williams, a 6-foot-3, 189-pound wide receiver who at the time was a senior-to-be at Monrovia High School, had just finished running a route against one of the top high school cornerbacks in the nation.
Clearly this was another level.
“The corners weren’t just robots defending receivers,” Williams recalled. “They did more than just run with you. They did extra things to make it difficult for receivers. You have to learn (as a receiver) to move around and help your quarterback.”
Williams spent the rest of his summer working on conditioning and improving his speed. He often was found on the track running 100- and 400-meter sprints with track teammates on their own time. Williams ran routes and acclimated to quarterbacks George Frazier V and Blake Heyworth, who at the time were competing for the starting spot.
Still, it was that workout in Tempe, Ariz., that made a lasting impression on Williams. It’s a big reason why Williams became the go-to receiver for the Wildcats (10-3), who host San Gabriel (9-4) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division championship game.
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Around this time last year, there was another receiver whose raw talent developed at the most opportune time. Jay Henderson made headlines after catching five passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns. He also returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown to complete the highlight reel in Monrovia’s 38-8 win over Whittier Christian for the Wildcats’ first-ever football championship.
Williams could be next.
“That’s where Luke is at right now,” Monrovia coach Ryan Maddox said. “We knew he could do it. I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface of what Luke Williams is going to be because at 6-3 and with those hands and the speed he’s going to develop into a special receiver down the road.”
UC Davis, Utah and San Diego have had extensive contact with Williams. What happens with Arizona State is unknown in the aftermath of Dennis Erickson’s dismissal. Regardless, Williams is hoping to make an impact at the next level. He’s certainly thinking – and playing – like a Division I receiver. Williams has honed his skills and soaks up whatever advice he gets from coaches. His playoff performances had opposing coaches wondering how Monrovia continues to produce star talent in production-line fashion.
Williams had 104 yards and a touchdown on just four receptions in Monrovia’s 24-7 win over Pomona in the playoff opener. Last week against top-seeded Covina, Williams caught seven passes for 99 yards.
With one game to go, Williams hopes to put the finishing touches on a season in which he has 793 receiving yards and six touchdowns.
“Looking at what Jay did last year it made me work harder,” Williams said.
It starts by selling the route and earning every pass that comes his way.
“I’ve told Blake that whenever he takes off on the run to look up,” said Williams, who also boasts a 4.0 GPA. “Because that’s my opportunity to move around and slip into the linebacker’s hole and make a play. It’s my job to get open and make it easier for Blake.”
Williams by nature is calm and soft-spoken, making it difficult to believe that he’s a different person once on the field.
“As soon as the whistle blows and the ball is in the air, there’s this adrenaline that takes over and a killer instinct takes over,” Maddox said.
This season, Williams has become more aggressive to complete the package. It starts with the first snap, sending a message even before making the secondary pay for it.
“On the first play I’ll run into the cornerback and give him a good push,” he says. “Just to let him know, `Hey, it’s going to be a long night.”‘