Derrick, who stayed with high school friend and current Gator Derrick Harvey, repeatedly called the trip "brilliant." Dwight was impressed by the wide-open offensive attack, by quarterback Chris Leak and by the possibility of early playing time for Derrick. Mother Brinda Williams called the trip "superb," happily noting that everyone they met had nothing but good things to say about the university and Zook.
And perhaps most importantly, the entire family was comforted by a meeting in Zook's office with the coach, Athletic Director Jeremy Foley and University of Florida President Bernard Machen, in which that trio assured the family that all rumors to the contrary, Zook's job was secure.
Eleanor Roosevelt's Derrick Williams has embarked on many road trips in search of his college of choice.
(Dudley M. Brooks - The Washington Post)
Part 1: Eleanor Roosevelt's Derrick Williams is stepping carefully around scholarship offers and those who have offered them.
Part 2: Williams has surrounded himself with those that will best advise the decision for his future.
Part 3: The Internet has changed the recruiting process significantly in the past decade.
Part 4: Wins and losses hardly matter when it comes to evaluating prep football prospects.
Part 5: With all of the recent coaching changes in college football, Williams seeks stability with his school of choice.
Exactly one month later, Derrick Williams was sitting in the Eleanor Roosevelt athletic department when Harvey called with the news. Zook had been fired.
"It really hurt me, because like I said, we talked to the president of the institution, we talked to the athletic director, and they both said Zook would be there, he had signed a contract extension," Brinda Williams said. "And within [four] weeks of visiting the institution, they fired the guy right there on the spot. What were we supposed to think then? Who can we trust now?"
Dwight Williams later called the Florida visit "a wasted trip." During their next campus visit, Brinda Williams said, she told Penn State President Graham Spanier, "I just want people to be honest."
Zook's dismissal, though, did not come as a surprise to Derrick.
"You know in the recruiting process that people trying to get you, they tell you lies and other stuff, and then when you get to campus it's a whole different thing," Derrick Williams said. "Sometimes what they tell you, you know it's a lie, you know it's a baldfaced lie. I knew that before [Zook got fired]. You've got to read between the lines sometimes."
And so Williams and his parents have adapted to this month's new landscape. Zook called Eleanor Roosevelt Coach Rick Houchens twice on Monday with the urgent news that he had landed at Illinois and wanted to remain in the game. At the time, Brinda Williams said, she "didn't even know Illinois had a football program." Now Zook will attempt to visit Williams and his parents next week.
New Florida coach Urban Meyer recently called, trying to keep the Gators in the picture. The Williamses were happy to hear that Meyer plans on retaining some of Zook's assistant coaches, and he, too, is trying to schedule a home visit.
And if the music starts, the coaches grab different partners and a few of the faces change, the Williams family will adjust again.
"This is almost like shooting dice," Dwight Williams said. "And it's a shame that it's like that. But it is."