James Williams feature

Chaminade-Madonna Prep cornerback James Williams and teammates celebrate beating Oxbridge Academy during their 3A state title game, Saturday, December 9, 2017, at Camping World Stadium.

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James Williams, the youngest of four boys, isn't one to shy away from a challenge.

The University of Wisconsin cornerback signee grew up holding his own against those older than him, surviving hits from bigger bodies in a backyard game called "murder ball" and even starting as a freshman for perennial state title contender Chaminade-Madonna Prep in Hollywood, Fla.

His brother Xavier, one year older, provided him with high-stakes competition every day in practice.

"We would talk trash to each other," James Williams said. "Brotherly love. And then we'd get home and talk about, 'Oh, I locked you up in practice.' We always made each other better. All we wanted to do was go hard so we could brag about it later."

Xavier Williams wasn't just any pesky brother, though. ESPN ranked the current Alabama wideout as the No. 26 player nationally in the 2018 recruiting class.

Between facing his brother and other top Chaminade wide receiver prospects like Kentucky's Marvin Alexander and Penn State's John Dunmore, James Williams will come to Madison this summer more prepared than most to make the jump to Division-I football.

The Badgers' recent ventures into South Florida for defensive backs have proven wildly successful. In five of the last six recruiting cycles, UW signed a cornerback from schools within 15 miles of Chaminade Prep. All five - Rachad Wildgoose, Faion Hicks, Dontye Carriere-Williams, Derrick Tindal and Sojourn Shelton - earned significant playing time by their second year on campus.

Williams ranks lower than most in the Badgers' 2019 class, per 247sports' composite, but the same could have been said for Wildgoose, Hicks, Carriere-Williams and Tindal.

Hicks played a significant role in swaying Williams' decision to choose UW. The two faced each other in 2016 during Hicks' senior year at Flanagan High. Hicks, who already knew Xavier well, also hosted James during his visit to Madison last June.

"Once I got an offer from (UW), I texted (Hicks)," James Williams said. "He was like, 'Yeah, it's a great place. If you go up there, you wouldn't regret anything.' ... He said it's different from South Florida but it's a great place to be. When I got there and saw the atmosphere and the coaches and the players, I felt just like at home."

Williams chose the Badgers over an offer from Florida, once his dream school.

A lifelong Gators fan, he felt destined for Gainesville but opted to wait on a commitment in order to assess all his options.

"For him to branch out and want to do something different, that's him," Chaminade Prep coach Dameon Jones said. "I knew he wasn't going to do what everybody else does. He doesn't follow the crowd, and I just respect that about him."

That visit to UW in June ended with Williams committing to the Badgers. It marked his first and only official visit during the recruiting process.

Pending trips to Michigan, Iowa State and Missouri were canceled. Williams knew where he wanted to be.

"After I went to Madison, I just did not want to go anywhere else," Williams said. "The guys there, the coaches and the connection we had. When I went there, I met them the first day and we laughed and talked like I had known them as a child growing up with them. I just felt like I was meant to be there."

This article originally ran on madison.com.

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