PETTICOAT JUNCTION — Silver Bluff head football coach Al Lown always preaches the importance of doing well in school to his players.

“If you get good grades, more doors will open,” Lown said Tuesday, when a perfect example of his instructions was being celebrated.

Ladarise Williams, a player for Lown’s Bulldogs signed a letter of intent to play for Limestone College. It’s a full scholarship to play for a program just getting started, and Williams’ exploits in the classroom were just as important as his performance on the gridiron in drawing Limestone’s attention.

The regular fixture on the A-B Honor Roll, ranked 33rd in his class at Silver Bluff, is being rewarded for good grades. Although he ran for 243 yards and four touchdowns this season, gaining an average of more than 7 yards per carry, Williams was accepted at Mississippi State and Presbyterian as a student, not to play football. When Limestone offered the 5-foot-7, 160-pound running back a chance to continue playing football, as well as pursue a pre-med degree, Williams jumped.

“It’s wonderful,” he said, surrounded by family and friends after having his signing at the school library. “It’s great to have the opportunity and I can save my mommy and daddy some money too. … They had my major, so it made it a good choice.”

Williams was also impressed with the environment of Limestone’s Gaffney campus, taking it all in during an official visit. He said he was also struck by the relationships between players and coaches, that there seemed to be genuine fondness.

Williams also said he was excited to be part of a program that’s building from the ground up. Limestone won’t begin playing football until 2014 and Williams was part of a big class to officially commit on National Signing Day. Williams said he believes he’ll have the chance to win playing time in the first season.

“I hope to get on the field and get some time,” he said, adding the coaches were very impressed with his speed. Lown is also impressed with Williams.

“He works extremely hard. Who knows what could happen? But this is a great opportunity for him,” Lown said of Williams, who he praised for his excellence in the classroom. “He’s a great student and that really stands out. … I think he’ll be a success in life.”

That’s Williams’ goal, and he said Limestone is the perfect place for him to achieve it.

“It’s very important to get where I want to be in life,” he said, “and this gets me another step closer.”

Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than a dozen years after graduating from Syracuse University.