Shakenneth Williams was a proven commodity to those who follow Bibb County football.
He started at Rutland as a freshman and served as a reliable playmaker for three seasons. But Williams’ profile across Middle Georgia and the state increased a little more than a year ago. Williams, who already had scholarship offers from Central Florida, Minnesota, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Missouri and Vanderbilt, landed an offer from Georgia on June 8, 2013 at a summer camp in Athens. A little more than a month later, Williams committed to play for the Bulldogs and became the focus of the game plan for every team Rutland would play in 2013.
Williams, however, excelled despite the attention. He led the Hurricanes to their first state playoff appearance in six years. He also started and played a key role on a basketball team that advanced to the state quarterfinals and was an All-Middle Georgia pick after qualifying for the state track and field meet in the long jump.
“He’s everything you want in a player if you’re a coach, and he’s everything you want as a teammate if you’re a player,” Rutland football head coach George Collins said of Williams, The Telegraph’s 2013-14 Selby Buck Award winner for top overall athlete in Middle Georgia.
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Collins had the best seat in the house to watch Williams’ progression from reliable receiver into of the best players in the area.
Coaches saw Williams’ work ethic when he attended camps in the summer of 2013, and the scholarship offers started to flow in. None needed to come after Mark Richt offered Williams in June. Williams’ commitment helped him spend the rest of July and August focused on making Rutland a playoff team.
The Hurricanes went 9-21 in Williams’ first three seasons, but they seemed to turn the corner by starting the season 4-0, scoring 40 or more points in their first three games. After suffering a three-game slide in the middle of the season, Rutland bounced back with a 47-14 win over Howard and a 48-31 win over Perry to clinch its first playoff spot since 2007. Rutland earned its second winning season and second playoff appearance in program history before losing to eventual state champion Griffin in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAA playoffs.
Williams caught 36 passes for 898 yards and 12 touchdowns even though opposing defenses always kept tabs on him.
“I just try to work as hard as I can and help my team the best way I can,” Williams said earlier this year. “It was great to go out in football by making the playoffs.”
Williams quickly made the transition to the basketball court, where the Hurricanes were expected to have one of the top teams in Class AAAA.
Williams started as one of the Hurricanes’ post options, but he felt more comfortable shooting mid-range jumpers. With a high release point, Williams rarely missed open shots. He finished third on the team with 12.2 points per game and was second in rebounding.
“He’s such a reliable guy,” Rutland basketball head coach Ron Christian said. “He’s got a smooth jump shot. He’s a great leader. You know what you’re going to get out of him every night.”
Rutland won the region championship by beating Veterans by 19 points and then rolled to wins in its first two playoff games. The Hurricanes lost by three to Jonesboro in the state quarterfinals -- Rutland lost in the quarterfinals for the second straight year -- and watched the Cardinals go on to win the state championship.
Williams quickly moved ont track and field, where he qualified for the state meet in the long jump. But Williams’ biggest goal in the spring was to stay in shape in preparation for reporting to Georgia in early June.
“He’ll do great,” Collins said. “He’s such a great kid. You just don’t get many like him.”