It was sometime in August, maybe on the first day of practice in pads, that Woodbridge freshman DeAntwan Williams realized exactly where he stood with his older teammates.
When the ninth-graders were told to report to another part of the field, Williams dutifully headed in that direction with his fellow freshmen.
"No," someone shouted to him. "You stay over here."
As far as the veteran Vikings were concerned, Williams was right where he belonged, working with a varsity team that was trying to replace the 2,400 rushing yards that graduated seniors Andre Bratton and Derrick Holt had amassed during the team's 7-4 season in 2004.
After collecting almost 300 yards in his first three games this fall, and returning a kick for a touchdown last week against Fauquier, Williams said he does not feel like a freshman.
But it turns out, he never did.
"Everybody treated me like an upperclassman, ever since they knew that I was coming here," Williams said after practice Monday. "Even last year."
Williams attended all the Vikings' games a year ago, home and away, but he did not play football last season at Fred Lynn Middle School while repeating eighth grade to improve his academic standing, his former coach said.
Even without playing for his school team in 2004, the reputation of the 5-foot-7, 170-pound Williams preceded him to high school.
"He came in with a lot of rumors like, 'Ooh, this boy DeAntwan is coming from Fred Lynn,' " Woodbridge senior quarterback Alex Brown said.
"He's just a natural runner," Brown added in a teasing manner, with Williams at his side. "He's been that [way] forever, out of the womb. He was born to be a running back. He's a multi-talented running back. A multi-faceted running back."
And a mature one. What has impressed Coach Keith King is that, unlike a lot of young backs, Williams does not dance behind the line of scrimmage waiting for a gaping hole that will never materialize. He makes a move, finds a crease and attacks it, and often finishes runs delivering more blows than he absorbs.
Williams's steady presence this summer in the weight room, unusual for a rising ninth-grader, also impressed the Vikings.
"He doesn't play like a freshman," said King, whose offensive line is just about the same unit that blocked for Bratton and Holt. "He runs like a kid who's been playing for years in high school ball."
Williams is accustomed to playing with and against older guys. Fred Lynn Coach Jim Hoffman said Williams made the middle school team as a sixth-grader, which is not all that common, and had an advanced air about him then, too.
"His eighth-grade year he definitely ran like I've never seen anybody run in my nine years of coaching," Hoffman said. "Coaches from many private schools were here looking at 'D.' "
Based on the first three games, the Vikings' current backfield might turn out to be almost as productive as Bratton (now at Miami of Ohio) and Holt (now at Akron) were last year.
Brown, a former running back who after his sophomore year switched to quarterback because he knew he would languish behind Bratton, has rushed for 213 yards and five touchdowns and thrown for 118 yards and two scores.
And Williams is doing what everyone expected him to do, despite his age.
"When I came out here [as a ninth-grader], I was like, '[Oh] man,' " said junior offensive lineman Justin Hairston, who initially struggled as a freshman on the varsity. "I really had to get things together. For him, it looked like an easy [transition]."