Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Saturday, July 21, 2012 | 2:58 p.m.
The University of Utah football team has made a history of finding its future standouts at Las Vegas-area high schools.
Linebacker Stevenson Sylvester of Valley High helped the Utes go undefeated in 2008 and is currently with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cimarron-Memorial High product Eddie Wide finished his career in 2010 with more than 2,000 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns, and wide receiver Devonte Christopher of Canyon Springs will be one of Utah’s top players this fall.
Durango High rising senior Marcus Williams hopes to continue to trend. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound running back verbally committed to Utah this weekend, picking the Utes over offers from Idaho, New Mexico and New Mexico State.
In 2012, Utah will have four from Southern Nevada on the roster — something that weighed heavy on Williams’ decision.
“Seeing all those Vegas guys have success definitely influenced (my decision),” Williams said.
Williams flew under the recruiting radar because he played in just three games last fall during his junior season after transferring to Durango from Bishop Gorman. And while he shined in those contests, it wasn’t enough to receive much recruiting interest.
Williams rushed for 237 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries last year against Sierra Vista in his best game of the year. He also scored twice against Pahrump Valley and had a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Desert Oasis.
But this offseason, he put himself squarely on the recruiting map with solid performances at national recruiting showcases.
Williams bested nearly 1,300 other recruits in early April by recording the highest score at the Nike Football SPARQ Combine in Long Beach, Calif. The SPARQ rating system — which uses times in the 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuffle, knelling ball toss and vertical jump — is one of the criteria used by college coaches in evaluating recruits. SPARQ is an acronym for speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness.
Williams had the top 40-yard dash time (4.43 seconds) and vertical jump (39.4 inches) to record the highest rating of the day at 128.91 points. The SPARQ tour continued to other cities, and Williams’ score still ranks as one of the best nationally.
Instead of recruiters waiting for game film from his senior season for further evaluation, they quickly realized they couldn't pass on his raw talent. Soon, the offers started rolling in — first with Idaho, then New Mexico and New Mexico State.
Having the chance to carry the ball for Utah, which plays in the Pac-12 Conference, was simply too good of an opportunity to pass on. For Williams, committing finally ends the trials and tribulations of his rough season and validates the gaudy combine times.
“I can’t believe I’m going to college,” he said.. “I’m so happy everything worked out.”