Riders' Williams to stage off-season combines for top football prospects
Two years after starting Top Prospects Canada, Shomari Williams is ready to take his high school recruiting program on the road.
On Saturday, the Saskatchewan Roughriders linebacker will run a football combine in Toronto, the first of seven Top Prospects is aiming to hold across Canada this off-season. Williams' recruiting system is also scheduled to stage events Dec. 7 in Winnipeg and Dec. 9 in Moose Jaw, Sask.
Then in January, sessions will be held in Montreal and Halifax, with future combines in Calgary and Vancouver scheduled for later in 2013. What's more, the athletes deemed the top performers in each session will receive $1,000 to go towards a university education.
"We're hoping to make this an annual event," Williams said. "The big thing is I want kids to come early and learn all about the recruiting process.
"I also want to give them the opportunity to be scouted as well as ensure that Top Prospects Canada has the most accurate rankings possible."
In 2010, Williams established Top Prospects Canada, a free recruiting service for Canadian high school basketball and football players that connects them with university and college coaches across Canada. Initially, Top Prospects is concentrating on football as well as boys' and girls' basketball, but Williams would like to expand the company to include all CIS sports.
While athletes can get involved with Top Prospects for free, those taking part in the football combine will have to pay $60 to register on-line or $75 at the actual event. The athletes will perform positional drills as well as go one-on-one with the other camp participants.
Each combine will feature instruction from current CFL players as well as various high school coaches. On Saturday, Hamilton Tiger-Cats linebacker Yannick Carter, defensive linemen Fernand Kashama of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Jabar Westerman of the B.C. Lions will be on hand.
Participants in the combine will go through their paces under the watchful eye of officials representing 10 Canadian universities, including Mount Allison, Concordia, Carleton, McMaster, Queen's and York.
"We're getting a lot of calls from coaches all the time and they like the program," Williams said. "Since 2010, we've had over 300 kids in our database go on to attend schools in Canada and the U.S., so things are going very well.
Signing up for the combines is easy. Interested athletes register online at topprospects.ca and click on combine series. All the event details are then provided.
Those wishing to take advantage of the program can also do so online and create a profile as well as submit their own game tape or video. The submissions are then available to college and university coaches, who can also log in for free and watch them in the comfort of their office and begin the process of compiling information about potential recruits.
Williams is very familiar with the recruiting process.
The 27-year-old Toronto native was recruited by the University of Houston, University of South Florida, Rutgers, and Connecticut during his high school career, which he split between Brampton, Ont., and Lennoxville, Que. He ultimately went to Houston.
Williams finished his degree in entrepreneurship at Houston and transferred to Queen's University after his junior season to pursue his education degree. The six-foot-one, 232-pound Williams was named the MVP of the '09 Mitchell Bowl after Queen's upset top-ranked Laval 33-30 before capping his collegiate career by helping the Gaels defeat Calgary 33-31 in the Vanier Cup.
The Roughriders took note, selecting Williams first overall in the 2010 CFL Canadian college draft. Williams got the idea of owning his own business at Houston but life in the CFL — where even during the season players are with their teams for just 4 1/2 hours a day — allows him to make it a reality as he plays.
Williams also spends a lot of time speaking with football and basketball organizations about his service. And when it comes to the athletes, the best advice Williams can offer is it's never too early for them to start thinking about college or university.
"Once you hit high school you have to start thinking about what you want to do with your university career," he said. "You have to start the process early.
"I'm hoping this program can get coaches to start recruiting kids earlier and maybe kids who are in the ninth grade can get to camps and be seen earlier."