And that’s exactly what Eric Mateos thought when he saw Williamson’s viral hoops highlights a couple of years ago.
Mateos, now the offensive line coach at Texas State, was the tight ends coach at LSU in the fall of 2016 under then-interim head coach Ed Orgeron. It was right around the time Williamson was becoming more well-known, with his dunking exploits garnering millions of views on YouTube.
Once Mateos saw the highlights, he got Williamson’s phone number and reached out to offer him a scholarship to LSU.
“I thought, hell, why not, he’s probably the best damn tight end to ever live,” Mateos told ESPN.
Mateos, who said Orgeron likely didn’t even know about the offer, never heard back from Williamson.
“Honestly, I just thought it would be really fun and would be good exposure for LSU if we offered him for football. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to be too [interested],” Mateos said. “Coach O said go recruit the best athletes in the country, and that’s what I tried to do.”
Mateos watched Duke’s first game of the season against Kentucky last week, when Williamson went for 28 points and seven rebounds in a blowout win for the Blue Devils.
He saw the same attributes on display that intrigued him two years ago.
“Anytime you have an athlete that can generate that much explosive power in a controlled manner, that’s a level of elite that translates to a bunch of different football positions,” Mateos said.
There are only a few football players who can even begin to compare to someone at 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds with Williamson’s leaping ability.
“If he’s 285, you’re talking a rare specimen, Julius Peppers-type of freak,” Mateos said. “I used to think [Jadeveon] Clowney was the biggest freak I’d ever seen. Zion probably brings the same or better athleticism based off what I’ve seen.”
Williamson told ESPN’s Myron Medcalf earlier this year that playing football at the next level was never considered.
“I didn’t get this size until my junior year of high school,” said Williamson, whose father reportedly received a football scholarship from NC State. “And my school doesn’t have a football team.”