Abilene High linebacker Chris Williams has verbally committed to play football for the University of Nebraska, Abilene High head coach Steve Warren announced.
Williams said the environment surrounding the Nebraska program, which is in its first season under Bo Pelini, made an offer hard to turn down.
"When a guy like Bo Pelini wants you to come in and be the centerpiece of his defense, it's something that you just have to think about and consider," Williams said. "It's something that I've thought about and it gives me a good chance to continue to be a Blackshirt."
Blackshirt is the designation given to Nebraska's starting defense. The term stems from 1964 -- the season changes to college football's substitution rules permitted two-platoon play -- when Nebraska defensive players began wearing black practice jerseys to contrast with red-clad offensive players.
It is an idea that has been co-opted by many programs, including Abilene High.
Warren said Williams' decision was the culmination of a long process.
"I'm excited for him," Warren said. "I'm just thrilled for him and his family. He's going to be able to go get an education and play for a tremendous program. I think he'll make them better when it's all said and done."
Verbal commitments are nonbinding. High school recruits cannot sign a binding letter of intent with a college program until Feb. 4, according to the NCAA Web site.
Williams was among the most heavily recruited linebackers in Texas, receiving offers from programs in the Big 12, Southeastern Conference and Pac-10. He visited Nebraska the weekend of Oct. 3-4 and said he intends to honor his commitment.
"I think I've waited this thing out long enough so I've made the right decision," he said. "I think I have and I don't think there's any changing that. I'm really think I am settled with my decision and I couldn't see myself changing it."
Williams said he also was impressed with what Nebraska has to offer academically.
"On my visit, they took me around the school and I got to see that Nebraska graduates at the top of the Big 12 almost every year," he said. "That's a big part. When you walk through, you can see all the academic All-Americans that have played sports and been able to get good educations."
A 6-foot-1, 220-pound senior, Williams was named the Defensive Player of the Year on The Associated Press Sports Editors Class 5A all-state team last season. He finished 2007 with 90 tackles with 32 tackles for loss and 13 sacks as the Eagles went 13-2 and advanced to the Class 5A Division II semifinals.
Through seven games this season, Williams leads the team with 40 tackles with 11 tackles for loss and a sack. He has two interceptions and a fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown, has blocked two kicks and forced six fumbles.
Abilene High (7-0 overall, 3-0 District 3-5A) is ranked No. 4 in the state in the AP Class 5A poll. The Eagles have an open date this week.
Nebraska is 3-3 overall and 0-2 in the Big 12. Williams said he is looking forward to helping the Cornhuskers return to prominence.
"It gives me a big opportunity to come in and in the next couple of years when Nebraska is turned around being able to look back and say, 'This is the guy that it started with,'" he said. "I don't know what player could take a chance or what player could have a better impact in doing that. With the tradition there, it puts everything in place."
The Cornhuskers claim five national championships, topping the AP poll following the 1970, '71, '94 and '95 seasons, the now-defunct UPI poll in '71 and the coaches poll in '94, '95 and '97. Nebraska finished No. 2 behind Michigan in the AP poll following the 1997 season.
"I think he really enjoyed his visit up there and I think he feels good about being a part of something that's on the rise," Warren said. "When it got right down to it, I think he wants to be somebody who is part of a team that maybe is not on the top shelf right now but can certainly get that way and get back to the tradition that they used to have.
"I really feel like that's probably why he decided to go there. They've got great tradition."
If Williams signs with Nebraska in February, he would be the second Big Country football player in as many seasons to join the Cornhuskers. Stephenville High School graduate Kody Spano, a quarterback, is a redshirt freshman at Nebraska this season.