Before the coronavirus upended the athletic landscape, Tyleik Williams had everything mapped out.
First, he’d play his senior football season for Unity Reed High School. And once his prep career finished, Williams would sign his national letter of intent during the Dec. 16-18 early signing period, graduate from high school and then enroll in college in January.
The second and third parts of the standout defensive tackle’s plans are still on track. But the first is over since there will be no high school football in Virginia until February.
That decision became official Monday when the Virginia High School League adopted a condensed three-season schedule that will allow all sports a chance to compete starting in December with winter sports following by the fall sports season and then the spring sports season.
While the plan preserves the entire 2020-21 sports schedule for the moment, it means senior football players like Williams won’t get the chance to play one more season if they remain committed to leaving high school after December.
Williams, rated the No. 4 recruit in Virginia for the class of 2021 by 247Sports, will still get the chance to represent Unity Reed one more time at the Under Armour All-American Game, which, assuming it’s still played, is typically held in the first week of January in Orlando.
High school seniors enrolling early in college is nothing new as they look to begin training at the next level as quickly as possible. Locally, at least four players have done it in the last nine years: Woodbridge’s Evrett Edwards, Forest Park’s Eric Kumah, Patriot’s Tim Baldwin and Freedom’s Vershon Lee. Lee and Baldwin graduated last December.
The difference now is that more are doing it to get a head start on preparing for college football and earn playing time as a freshman.
Williams was ready to move on in January. He never figured it would mean missing out on his senior season.
“[Coronavirus] messed everything up,” said Williams, who plans to announce his college choice in late August. He has narrowed his list down to six schools: Alabama, North Carolina, Ohio State, LSU, Virginia Tech and South Carolina.
Williams is one of two local players who remain committed to enrolling early in college. Battlefield senior linebacker and JMU commitment Matt Binkowski is the other.
Others, like Patriot senior and Virginia Tech commitment Jalen Stroman, are weighing the choice between playing one more season of high school against starting their college football careers in the spring.
Gar-Field senior linebacker Mason Woods, who committed to Louisiana-Monroe July 21, said he thought about enrolling early in college, but prefers to play his final year of high school football.
“If I get the chance to play senior year, I will do it,” Woods said.
Battlefield head football coach Scott Girolmo said he supports any of his seniors’ decisions.
“I want all my guys to do what is best for their future regardless of how the schedule changes and how it may negatively impact our team,” Girolmo said. “It’s difficult to say goodbye to your seniors, but in the end what we coaches all want is for our guys to go to chase their dreams. If that means staying and playing great. If that means leaving early, we have their backs.”