In an era when three-sport high school athletes are about as rare as land-line phones, Canton senior Caleb Williams is a smooth operator.
Once June 2024 rolls around, the football-basketball-baseball standout for the Chiefs — yes, Canton athletes are still Chiefs for one more school year — Williams will have accumulated 12 varsity letters, the maximum number possible unless you play two sports in one season, which is super-rare.
And Williams’ letters aren’t just participation acknowledgements — they’re symbols of his impactful athletic skill set, which doesn’t come around often.
He started (and more than held his own) as a defensive back as a freshman for Canton’s football team — and has been a two-way player in the two years since — while excelling as a dangerous guard for the Chiefs varsity hoops team and shortstop and top-of-the-order hitter on the baseball diamond.
When many athletes choose the one-sport specialization route, Williams has spread the wealth to three sports (and he’s earned a sterling 3.83 grade-point average in the classroom).
It’s all about having fun
What’s his secret?
“For me, I just go out there, play and have fun,” Williams said. “If you’re stressed out and focused on every little thing, you’re going to get burned out.
“It’s also important to take care of your body by eating right and getting enough sleep.”
Competing almost non-stop from September through June — with summer teams and showcase camps mixed in — is actually beneficial, Williams noted.
“Being active throughout the year helps because I never get out of shape,” he said. “The sports I compete in play off each other well, too. For instance, my technique covering receivers as a defensive back helps me with pressing and defense in basketball, as far as how to use my hands. And the hand-eye coordination from baseball has helps me in the other two sport.”
Maybe the high school coach who appreciates Williams’ on- and off-field contributions as much as anyone these days is the Casey Bess — Canton’s first-year football coach who has yet to coach his lone four-year varsity senior in a game.
Bess said Williams’ leadership and the respect he has earned from his teammates have been instrumental in making Canton’s coaching regime transition run as smooth as it has.
“Caleb is a special kid,” said Bess. “He’s not only an outstanding football player, but he’s a great young man.
“Obviously, his teammates really look up to him, being a talented four-year varsity player like he is and an off-the-field leader. He’s definitely helped make the coaching transition easier for me and my staff.”
It’s a certainty Williams will play football at the next level beginning in the fall of 2024 — it’s just a matter of where.
Like his father Corey Williams who played defensive back for the University of Cincinnati in the late-80s, Caleb is destined to shine for a Division 1 program.
Among his next-level suitors are his dad’s alma mater, Pitt, the University of Michigan and Michigan State.
Wowed by Williams’ camp workouts, the University of Tennessee offered Williams a scholarship before his freshman season of high school football.
“I’m not in a hurry to make a commitment,” Williams said. “Some of the coaches want to see how I perform in a couple games this coming season.
“I could decide two or three weeks into the season, or I could wait until after the season. I’m going to wait until I’m 100% comfortable with a decision.”
Video of Williams playing DB at high-level showcase camps have collegiate coaches drooling as his combination of technique and speed have a tendency to make opposing quarterbacks look to the side of the field Williams is not working.
He said the support of his parents — Corey and Jennifer — has been priceless.
Great student, too
Williams said his favorite classes are ones that focus on history and social studies, but his best subject is probably math.
He said he is looking forward to what his senior season is about to bring — one season at a time.
“I’ve definitely matured the past three years, taken more leadership responsibility as I’ve gotten older,” he said. “I’ve become more of a leader specifically with football. The older guys I’ve played with have done a great job of showing me the way.”
Ed Wright can be reached at 734-664-4657 or firstname.lastname@example.org.