KIRKWOOD • Kyren Williams exploded through the target.
The target was his sister, Grace.
At the behest of his mother, Taryn, Williams was practicing his tackling form on a mattress in his room. Grace, his younger sister, was a willing tackling dummy when the duo were in elementary school.
At least until she came up missing two teeth.
“They were loose,” Taryn said with a laugh.
A senior-to-be at Vianney, Williams shared the story as he thanked his family, friends, teammates, coaches and educators for helping him achieve his goal of playing NCAA Division I football.
Williams verbally committed to play at the University of Notre Dame on Thursday night in Vianney's media center. Verbal commitments are nonbinding. The first day seniors can sign national letters of intent is Dec. 19.
A 5-foot-10 and 200-pound standout for the Golden Griffins, Williams chose the Fighting Irish after sorting through 23 scholarship offers. He trimmed his list to a final three that also included Mizzou and Michigan.
After an official visit to Notre Dame last weekend, Williams said he was comfortable committing. While on his visit, he told the coaching staff in South Bend he would be coming and then shared that news Thursday night.
“Ever since my official visit last week I felt a connection with the school and myself and my family,” Williams said. “I felt comfortable up there. I texted my mom on the second day of my official, 'Notre Dame is my new home.'”
Williams is the first area football recruit to commit to Notre Dame since Parkway Central two-way standout Jonathan Bonner in 2014.
Williams is among the highest profile recruits to come out of Vianney. Quarterback Trent Green played at Indiana University after graduating in 1988. Defensive end Kyle Markway, who graduated in 2015, is currently a redshirt junior at South Carolina.
Williams doesn't have a defined position. His skill set is so strong and broad he's moved all over the field in his previous three seasons with the Golden Griffins. His 35 touchdowns last season tied 2013 graduate Markel Smith for the school's single-season record. He rushed for 922 yards and caught 51 passes for 774 yards. He threw a touchdown pass.
Williams finished his junior year with 37 tackles, three sacks and four interceptions. He averaged nearly 38 yards as Vianney's primary punter.
Vianney coach Paul Day has routinely praised Williams' versatility, so much so that he didn't want to overburden Williams because he can do so much at a high level. Day said Williams played eight different positions last season for the Golden Griffins as he shifted around depending on the formation.
Williams' multitude of skills were a real asset to the schools that recruited him.
“He's a guy who can do a lot of different things,” Day said.
And different schools thought he could make an impact at different positions. Some programs saw him as a real weapon on offense. Others saw what he could do in the defensive secondary and projected him as a safety.
“It's interesting because everyone is watching the same film,” Day said. “It tells you what kind of athlete he is.”
Williams said Notre Dame really liked him as a versatile running back that can move around the offense and make plays out of the backfield or in the slot. He said his relationship with running backs coach Autry Denson really drove home that Notre Dame was the place for him.
“He kept it real with me from day one,” Williams said.
Williams did say it was hard to turn down Mizzou. His friends were in his ear pushing the Tigers. But he felt Notre Dame was the best fit for him even if it means he'll have to stop tackling.
“I'll definitely miss hitting people,” Williams said. “That's my favorite part of football right there.”