But when Carter and Antonio Williams wore down toward the end of the season, the coaching staff told Javonte Williams he had to step up.
And he did. The Wallace, N.C. native ran for 176 yards and four scores in the Tar Heels’ final two games against Western Carolina and N.C. State.
He carried his newfound confidence into the offseason, when he began working with Longo and Brown. Though Javonte Williams, along with the coaching staff, knew his capabilities, he wasn’t bothered by the lack of attention leading up to this season.
“He just puts his head down and works,” first-year quarterback Sam Howell said on Tuesday. “He’s not really worried about what anyone’s saying.”
After all, Javonte Williams is used to being overlooked.
Coming out of Wallace Rose-Hill High School in Teachey, N.C., he was a three-star recruit and the 94th best running back in the country, according to 247Sports. Javonte Williams, who played linebacker until his junior year, said he didn't have many offers until late in his senior season.
“It was real hard on me, just not knowing what I was gonna do after high school,” he recalled.
Two years later, even as one of the leaders of the Tar Heel offense, Javonte Williams still embraces the underdog role. It’s a mindset Brown encourages his team to have.
“When you have struggled like they have the past two years and people have been so critical of them, I think every day is a chip-on-your-shoulder mentality,” Brown said on Wednesday.
Luckily for Brown, Javonte Williams embodies just that. Brown sees a similar tenaciousness in him that he saw in legendary running back Ricky Williams, the 1998 Heisman Trophy winner he coached at Texas.
“A lot of safeties would slip on the way to tackle Ricky, because they thought it was better to slip or pull a hamstring before they got there,” Brown said with a smile. “I’m seeing some of the same stuff in Javonte. People don’t want to tackle him in space.”
Javonte Williams should have a chance to continue his hot start Friday when North Carolina takes on Wake Forest in Winston-Salem. The Demon Deacons are 55th in the country in run defense and have allowed 247 rushing yards in their first two games.
Still, ESPN and other networks have Wake Forest as a slight favorite.
Javonte Williams doesn’t mind, though.
“I like the underdog role more than just coming in hyped, because it lets the team know any game, we can go out there and get beat, ” he said. “I feel like that’s something that we’ve understood.”
@DTHSports | email@example.com