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KU football MVP Countdown: No. 6, Pooka Williams

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Kansas freshman running back Pooka Williams scoots past senior linebacker Osaze Ogbebor during practice drills on Aug. 4, 2018

Kansas freshman running back Pooka Williams scoots past senior linebacker Osaze Ogbebor during practice drills on Aug. 4, 2018

The Kansas football newcomer I most look forward to seeing in Saturday's 6 p.m. season opener vs. Nicholls is, without question, running back Anthony "Pooka" Williams, for a variety of reasons.

Stories told about him spinning, cutting so sharply, even leaping over a linebacker in practice make me more excited than I can ever recall being about a newcomer in 14 seasons of covering KU football.

And the fact that he does this all without any toes on his left foot makes him all the more intriguing a story. He lost them in a lawnmower accident at about the age of 7, Williams told the New Orleans Advocate.

At first, Williams told the Advocate, “It was hard to make cuts and stuff. But after a while, I just got used to it. Now, I plant soft. I don’t plant hard. I can plant hard. But when it first happened, I wasn’t able to plant hard on it. Now, I can do anything on (the foot) now."

Pooka — how many athletes don't need their last names, just their nicknames, for most to know who you're talking about before making their college debuts? — made an early verbal commitment to Kansas, but at the same time said his recruitment was wide open. LSU, Alabama, Texas, Florida, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Nebraska, UCLA and others wanted him, provided he was cleared academically. KU was the first to offer, back when his chances of gaining academic clearance looked iffy, and in the end, he remained loyal to KU and running backs coach Tony Hull.

As a senior, the muscular Pooka rushed for 3,118 yards and 37 touchdowns, leading Hahnville High into the 5A state title game.

"He's the kind that can change a program," Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio told the Advocate on signing day. "If he's got good football players around him, he can be electric. Going into that conference, it fits his skill set. It's a conference not known for playing defense and playing wide-open offense and that's what he wants. It's almost like they are playing Canadian football so he'll fit right in with his skill set."

The key words in that quote are "if he's got good football players around him."

Pooka can't do it alone and will need run blocks and accurate passes followed by good blocks to showcase his elite speed when rushing, receiving and returning kickoffs. Williams and fellow sprinter Ryan Schadler are listed at the top of the depth chart for that special teams unit.

Comments

Dirk Medema 3 weeks, 4 days ago

It would be great if those 2 could get some big returns.

Who are the 5 remaining?

Jim Stauffer 3 weeks, 3 days ago

I too, am excited about Pooka, but I do believe the 40 and 50 yard runs he made in High School will be reduced to 10-15 yards in college. He will be playing against guys who have seen players like him before.

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