- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2006

ORLANDO, Fla. — Ralph Friedgen seemed amused when he considered the manner wide receiver Isaiah Williams carries himself, from a booming voice to a thorough certainty about his own abilities.

The Maryland coach chuckled warily and deemed some of it “false confidence.”

Williams, self-belief oozing from him as usual, disagreed.

“It’s the way I’ve always been, it’s the way I’m always going to be,” Williams said. “The confidence I have, it’s been able to play different roles in my game and it helps me fight back and move forward and understand where I am. I’m new to Ralph and he’s probably never had to deal with a player like me before. He just doesn’t understand yet. But it’s definitely not false.”

Neither is the sophomore’s talent. Williams rolled up 25 catches for 355 yards and three touchdowns in his first season as a regular, and as the Terps (8-4) head into the offseason after tomorrow’s Champs Sports Bowl against Purdue (8-5), he is one of the program’s best bets to emerge as a star in the near future.

He has speed to spare, a trait that brought attention during his high school career at New Jersey’s Bergen Catholic. Meanwhile, his twin sister, Tahirah, starred at Immaculate Heart Academy and was named the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year in basketball her senior year.

Not surprisingly, the Williams home buzzed with calls and mail. Tahirah alleviated some of it — and pacified the local UPS driver— when she committed to Connecticut after her junior season.

“Sometimes, we’d have three different lines tied up,” Isaiah said. “We’d have coaches in the cell phones and the texting and everything, it was really weird for three or four months that we were both getting recruited. We were both like ‘Let’s just get committed so we don’t have to worry about all the letters coming in.’ ”

The two naturally found ways to compete with each other, an offshoot of the games both played in their neighborhood growing up. During the recruiting frenzy, they would compare who received more mentions in the newspaper. Tahirah already had filled the house with trophies, and would remind Isaiah he was her “baby brother,” albeit by a minute.

All the while, the twins carved out their in-game attitudes. Tahirah is certain but reserved, while Isaiah makes little effort to hide what he knows others view as “serious swagger.”

“We both carry our confidence in different ways. On the court, I know I’m going to go out there and dominate,” Tahirah said in a phone interview. “It’s the same thing for him, but he actually shows it. A lot of people misunderstand him as arrogant. I know my brother as a person. He knows he’s good at what he does.”

There were glimmers of Isaiah’s potential throughout the season. He scored his first touchdown in a loss to West Virginia, and conceded after a five-catch, 66-yard effort at Clemson he “looked in the mirror a little longer” the next morning. Later, he had 65 yards and a touchdown against Wake Forest.

Williams’ next step is finding consistency. Friedgen believes competition in practice — which the Terps lacked this season at wideout — will help. Another year in the offense will, too, though he’s made significant progress this season.

“I know I’m doing things right, I’m getting open and making the right reads,” Isaiah said. “Some games, it showed up like Clemson and Wake Forest. It lets me further know and reassure me that it’s there. It’s just going to take some time.”

Williams already established a reputation in matters outside football. With a voice wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey compares to a wrestler’s, he leads gullible teammates and coaches on with elaborate stories he concocts on the fly.

It is a remarkable talent, one Williams acknowledges in his self-assured way while his friends snicker about the entertainment value it provides.

“When it comes to saying ridiculous things, he cuts the cake. Isaiah will say anything.” receiver Danny Oquendo said. “He might just make up a whole story just to do it. Probably most of the team will fall for it, but not me. I’m the only person who’s able to distinguish. I’m the one in the back always laughing.”

Williams could prompt many more smiles with his on-field performance. Like his sister, a reserve guard for unbeaten Connecticut, he’s etching a greater place for himself at the college level. More importantly, the belief of greater things in the future remains for both, and there’s nothing false about either twin’s dreams.

“It’s cool to think both of us might get national championships, and we’re both at schools that can do it,” Tahirah said. “If we do it the same year, it would be great. I talk to my parents about how cool it would be if we were both playing and we both get a national championship. Who can say both kids had it all in one year?”


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