|Intro||American soccer player born 1998|
|A.K.A.||Jerome Williams Jr.|
Association football player
|From||United States of America|
|Birth||4 January 1998, Clovis, USA|
Jerome Williams Jr. (born January 4, 1998) is an American professional soccer player who plays as a forward for Birmingham Legion in the USL Championship. He previously appeared at the semi-professional level for Birmingham Hammers, Reading United, and Dayton Dutch Lions and as a professional with Major League Soccer club Columbus Crew SC.
Although he was born in Clovis, New Mexico, Williams grew up in Montgomery, Alabama and attended Alabama Christian Academy. After scoring 122 goals while in high school, he spent three years playing at the University of Kentucky. Williams was a Hermann Trophy finalist in 2018, the same year that he was a first team all-American and the C-USA Men’s Soccer Player of the Year. He also spent time during the collegiate offseason with Birmingham Hammers, Reading United, and Dayton Dutch Lions. Williams signed a Generation Adidas contract with Major League Soccer ahead of the 2019 MLS SuperDraft and was selected in the first round by Columbus Crew SC. He spent most of his rookie year on loan to Birmingham Legion before being waived by the Crew ahead of the 2020 season.
Born in Clovis, New Mexico, Williams moved to Alabama as a child and grew up in Montgomery. He began playing soccer at the age of nine, joining the Capital City Streaks youth club and playing for regional Olympic Development Program teams. With the ODP, he played in Costa Rica and Italy and earned an invitation to train with the youth teams of ChievoVerona. Williams attended Alabama Christian Academy in Montgomery, playing three years on varsity for the Eagles. He combined for 57 goals across his sophomore and junior seasons before breaking out as a senior with 65 goals and 20 assists. Williams was a two-time All-Metro player of the year in Montgomery and was named the 2016 AHSAA Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
At club level, Williams appeared for Vestavia Hills Soccer Club in Vestavia Hills, winning three State Cup championships. He committed to play college soccer at Kentucky, one of seven members of the 2016 class for the Wildcats.
College and amateur
On August 26, 2016, Williams came off the bench to make his collegiate debut in a 4–0 victory away to Marquette. He went on to make 18 appearances on the season, tallying three goals and three assists while primarily coming off the bench. Williams scored his first collegiate goal on October 5, with his 73rd-minute strike providing the winning goal in a 3–1 victory over Evansville. He added his first NCAA tournament goal on November 20, albeit in a 3–2 loss to Creighton in the second round. At the end of the season, he was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team. As a sophomore, Williams tied for the team lead in goals, with three, and added four assists in 17 appearances. He started just once on the season, but scored with a penalty kick as part of a 1–1 draw with nationally-ranked Xavier on September 20, 2017. Although the Wildcats were eliminated in the first round of the C-USA Tournament, Williams was named Third Team All-CUSA.
Williams broke out as a junior to become “perhaps the nation’s top attacking threat”, tallying 18 goals and eight assists in 22 matches. He scored two goals in a match four times, notably against Louisville on September 4, 2018 and against Portland in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The goals against Portland capped off a stretch of nine goals in nine games for Williams. In leading the Wildcats to the C-USA regular season and tournament titles, Williams was named as the C-USA Player of the Year, Offensive MVP, and Tournament MVP. His 18 goals were third-most in the nation and a Kentucky single-season record. He was named as a finalist for the Hermann Trophy, but lost out on the award to Andrew Gutman of Indiana. Williams departed Kentucky following the season, ending his collegiate career with 24 goals and 15 assists from 57 appearances.
Following his high school graduation, and before joining the team at Kentucky, Williams spent time in the National Premier Soccer League with expansion club Birmingham Hammers. He was not initially on the roster, but was added midway through the season and made his debut against Nashville FC on June 12. In his second match for the Hammers, Williams was sent off in the 72nd minute of a 2–0 defeat against Chattanooga FC after a collision with Chattanooga goalkeeper Greg Hartley. He finished the season with five appearances for Birmingham.
Ahead of his sophomore season at Kentucky, Williams joined Premier Development League club Reading United. He made his debut for the side on May 13, 2017, playing nine minutes in a 3–1 victory over Lehigh Valley United. Williams scored his first Reading goal on May 20, a tally two minutes into second half stoppage time in a 3–2 defeat against New York Red Bulls U-23. He scarcely appeared through the remainder of the season, however, closing his time with Reading with one goal from seven appearances.
Dayton Dutch Lions
Williams returned to the Premier Development League ahead of his junior collegiate season, joining up with Dayton Dutch Lions. He debuted for the club on May 18, playing the full 90 minutes in a 1–1 draw against West Virginia Alliance. On his fifth appearance, he scored his first goal for the Dutch Lions, a 19th-minute tally in a 3–1 defeat to Lansing United on June 9. After scoring just once in his first eight games for the club, Williams pounded in seven goals in his last five appearances. Beginning with a two-goal game against Derby City Rovers on June 27, he added a goal against Cincinnati Dutch Lions on July 3 and scored a hat trick against Cincinnati on July 13. He added a goal in the playoffs against Chicago FC United, although Dayton fell by a 5–3 scoreline. Williams scored eight times in 13 appearances during his lone season with the Dutch Lions.
Columbus Crew SC
Ahead of the 2019 MLS Combine, Williams signed a Generation Adidas contract with Major League Soccer, making him one of seven members of the GA class. He was selected by Columbus Crew SC with the 18th overall pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft, the second consecutive year that Columbus had drafted a Generation Adidas player (in 2018, the Crew chose Edward Opoku in the second round). Williams made his professional and Crew debut on March 23, coming off the bench to replace Patrick Mullins against Philadelphia Union. He received praise for bringing “some energy to the field” in his 35 minutes on the pitch.
Birmingham Legion (loan)
In order to get game minutes throughout the season, Williams spent multiple spells on loan with USL Championship club Birmingham Legion FC. The first of those loan spells was announced on April 12, with Williams making his debut for the Legion the next day. He replaced Chandler Hoffman in the 52nd minute against Saint Louis FC, going on to score two goals in a six-minute span to help Birmingham earn a 3–2 victory. Those marked the first two professional goals of Williams’ career. After a two-week spell back in Columbus, Williams rejoined the Legion on May 9 on a game-by-game basis. He again returned to the Crew in late June, appearing off the bench in a home defeat against Sporting Kansas City on June 23; following that match, Williams started the Crew’s next three games as Gyasi Zardes was on international duty. On July 13, the Crew confirmed that Williams would be sent back to Birmingham for his third loan spell with the Legion. He would spend the remainder of the 2019 season in Alabama, helping the Legion qualify for the 2019 USL Championship Playoffs in their first year of existence. In the Eastern Conference play-in match against North Carolina FC, Williams provided the winning goal: his strike three minutes into stoppage time handed Birmingham a 3–2 victory in their first-ever playoff match.
On the season, Williams played in 32 games and scored eight goals between the two clubs: nine appearances in Columbus, and the remainder coming while on loan in Birmingham. He would not return for a second season in Columbus, however, being waived by the Crew on February 20, 2020. A lack of potential playing time, with Williams sitting fourth on the depth chart at the forward position, was cited by the club as the reason behind the move.
On February 27, 2020, Williams re-joined Birmingham Legion for the 2020 season. It is officially a loan deal from Major League Soccer, as his rights are still owned by the league through his Generation Adidas contract.
- As of October 26, 2019
|Dayton Dutch Lions||2018||PDL||12||7||–||–||1||1||13||8|
|Columbus Crew SC||2019||MLS||7||0||2||0||–||–||9||0|
|Birmingham Legion (loan)||2019||USL Championship||21||7||0||0||–||2||1||23||8|
- Conference USA Men’s Soccer Tournament: 2018
- Conference USA (regular season): 2018
- Dayton Dutch Lions
- Great Lakes Division: 2018
- C-USA All-Freshman Team: 2016
- Third Team All-CUSA: 2017
- First team All-America: 2018
- Conference USA Men’s Soccer Player of the Year: 2018
- C-USA Offensive Player of the Year: 2018
- C-USA Tournament MVP: 2018