In 2014, when the Park Forest Hurricanes met the Markham Patriots for their league’s Super Bowl, there were two Illinois eighth-graders on the field who were marked for future stardom: Park Forest quarterback Alante Brown, and Markham running back Anthony Williams Jr., who led his team to a victory by scoring every one of his team’s touchdowns.
The two would unite at Chicago Simeon for their freshman and sophomore years before Williams transferred to Bolingbrook.
They will join forces again in the near future, though, as both players recently made verbal commitments to Michigan State.
Brown (5-10, 181 pounds), a quarterback at Chicago Simeon who committed to the Spartans as a slot receiver and return man, still remembers that Super Bowl game and remembers recognizing Williams as a standout even back then.
“I knew he was going to be good because he was always bigger than everybody, and it would always take four or five guys to tackle him,” Brown said.
That type of playmaking ability is something Brown has as well. When Chicago Simeon came to Detroit and played Cass Tech last year, he made several dazzling runs the staff at Cass Tech still talk about.
“He is a great individual, a hard worker, a student of the game, and an all-around great kid,” Simeon head coach Dante Culbreath said.
Brown went to several camps this summer, consistently ran 40 times in the 4.4s, and showed schools that he could catch the football. That led to offers from Missouri, Minnesota and Michigan State. He was born in East Lansing, and his grandfather was a Michigan State fan, so that familiarity with the program led him to choose the Spartans.
Culbreath believes Michigan State made a good choice in offering him the opportunity.
“I think it will be an easy transition for Alante because he is a heck of an athlete and because we’re in the shotgun, he catches the ball every play,” Culbreath said. “He’s also amazing when it comes down to being a teammate, leadership and presence. For all the things of that nature, he’s a kid you hate to lose, because he has always led by example.”
Williams (6-0, 191 pounds) has similar intangibles in addition to his athletic qualities. At every camp he attended, the same questions always seemed to come up. “How come you do not have more offers?” Although Boston College, Cincinnati and others had offered, the feeling from those who had seen him play was he should have opportunities from more major programs.
He had decided to wrap up the summer camp season already by the time Michigan State reached out, and asked if he would come to one of their mid-week camps. The next morning, he and his father, Anthony Williams Sr., were in the car, making the drive to East Lansing. After another impressive workout, where his excellent receiving skills were on display, Michigan State offered a scholarship.
Williams had camped at Michigan State his freshman year, so the offer was years in the making.
"He has been relentless in his grind every day," Williams Sr. said. "As a freshman, his trainers were telling him he trains like a professional every day. We’ve been preparing for this day and this moment, and I have been saying he is a Big Ten, Power 5 back and everything has come from the hard work he has been putting in. He has been patient and humble throughout the process."
During that eighth-grade season, Brown’s Park Forest team had beaten Williams’ Markham team, but Williams got his revenge in the Super Bowl.
Both players hope to reach the state title game as seniors this year before competing for Big Ten and national titles at Michigan State.
Only this time, for the first time in several years, they will do it as teammates.
Allen Trieu covers Midwest football recruiting for 247Sports. He has been featured on the Big Ten Network on its annual Signing Day Show. His Michigan and Michigan State recruiting columns appear weekly at detroitnews.com.