Princeton’s Bennett Williams, Payne Miller, Noah LaPorte drawing Division I interest

Bennett Williams (51) and Payne Miller (75) team up for a formidable force on the Princeton offense and defensive lines. Both are receiving heavy collegiate interest, including the Div. 1 level.

Princeton junior lineman Bennett Williams and Payne Miller and sophomore end Noah LaPorte are all receiving heavy collegiate interest this spring, including from the NCAA Division I level. The Tiger trio contributed mightily to Princeton’s run to a repeat Three Rivers East championship and Class 3A quarterfinal run.

Williams has received four DI offers, Miller has one offer in his pocket and LaPorte was the guest of the Fighting Illini for their recent spring game in Champaign.

Tiger coach Ryan Pearson is excited for the opportunities his players are receiving.

“It’s honestly awesome to see Princeton High School and all of our football players getting the recruiting attention they deserve. Our kids work extremely hard year round and I know they have a lot to offer schools at the next level. I’m truly happy they are receiving the interest that they are.”

—  Ryan Pearson, Princeton coach

“It’s honestly awesome to see Princeton High School and all of our football players getting the recruiting attention they deserve,” he said. “Our kids work extremely hard year round and I know they have a lot to offer schools at the next level. I’m truly happy they are receiving the interest that they are.”

Princeton High School juniors Payne Miller (second from left) and Bennett Williams both were recent guests of Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo.

Both Miller and Williams visited and received an offer from Lindenwood University, located in St. Charles, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis. The Lions went 7-3 in their first season at the Div. I level last season.

“Lindenwood was a gorgeous campus. I liked how the coaches spoke, and I think they’re an up-and-coming program for sure. 7-3 is not bad for a first-year Division I team,” Miller said.

“It’s really fun to have Payne there,” Williams said. “We’ve both worked very hard. He’s put in an incredible amount of work. His strength is crazy. His tech is amazing. To be able to have a teammate of the same class, same position going to all these, it really speaks for our program as well as our players.”

Williams has also received DI offers from Army, Air Force and Illinois State University, as well as Division II Minnesota State.

Most recently, Williams made a trip to watch the spring game at Army and toured West Point and had “great conversation” with the Army coaches. His brother, Mack, a former Tiger gridder now at Navy, jokingly referred to Army as the “enemy.”

He’s also made visits to ISU, Wyoming (twice), Northern Illinois, Eastern Illinois and Drake University and received invites from Southern Illinois, South Dakota State, Columbia University, Briar Cliff and Upper Iowa as well as Illinois last fall.

He’ll be going back to Wyoming for camp in June.

“I’m really liking all the schools I’ve gone and seen,” Williams said. “I’m looking to get out and see more schools, because I have a lot lined up and then get to some camps this summer and make an educated decision. See what I like with how the coaches coach the players and the culture around the schools and all that stuff.”

Miller has visited Eastern Illinois and South Dakota State in addition to Lindenwood. He was most impressed on his visit to South Dakota State, which he called one of the “most well-rounded programs,” and has talked to the Jackrabbbits staff about attending their camp.

Princeton High School junior Payne Williams recently made a visit to Eastern Illinois University.

He’s also received DI interest from Western Illinois, Drake and Butler and received “Junior Invites” from Upper Iowa, McKendree University, Winona State University, Briar Cliff University, University of Jamestown and Monmouth College.

“It’s only my junior year still. Either way, I am blessed to have a Division I offer. If that’s my only one, I wouldn’t be at all disappointed,” he said. “We’re working hard and we’ll see how it comes out in the fall. As of now, it’s just kind of going out enjoying myself with my last ride with a great football team that I’ve been blessed to be around the last four years.”

He said it would be “cool” to be able to play with Williams in college if the opportunity arose.

“I don’t know his plans of the vast opportunities he has. (But) I would always go and have fun with my teammates once again. It would be great to know somebody where I’m going,” he said.

Miller said Williams is most deserving of all the interest he is receiving because of “his dedication and hard work to his craft.

Both Miller and Williams are gearing up to qualify for the IHSA State Track Meet in the weights. Miller has a track scholarship offer from Eastern Illinois.

“For the most part, I’m just enjoying track and the recruiting process. I am absolutely honored to be talking to these schools. After the state meet, I will be refocusing my eyes on football,” Miller said.

Princeton High School sophomore Noah LaPorte was a guest of Pat Ryan (left), the University of Illinois' Director of Illinois High School Relations, at the Fighting Illini's spring game.

It’s still relatively early in the recruiting game for LaPorte, who had a breakout sophomore season and is receiving strong interest. A 6-4 end with speed and good hands, LaPorte received a Game Day visit from Illinois for the Iowa game last fall along with Williams, and was then invited back to the Illini’s spring game.

He said it was a very fun experience.

“It was very nice. We got to eat before the game, see the weight room, walk around the field and meet my position coach,” he said.

Princeton senior Teegan Davis became Princeton’s first Division 1 signee in decades when he signed to play for the University of Iowa this year. His career will be delayed after sustaining a devastating knee injury jumping during the indoor track season. He has undergone surgery at Iowa City and is rehabbing his knee.