It was reporting day for Auburn’s football freshmen in the summer of 2001 when running back Cadillac Williams sat down to talk with assembled reporters. He was a 5-star running back from Etowah High School, the crown jewel of the signing class.
The first question was predictable: “Do you expect to be the starter?” Williams pondered the question for a moment and smiled.
“I have not proved one thing to anybody here,” Williams said.
Asked if he had been promised a starting job, Williams laughed out loud.
“Aw, man, that’s just recruiting talk,” Williams said. “I didn’t pay attention to anything like that.”
Though he did not begin his first season as a starter, Williams quickly proved plenty to everybody at Auburn. He went on to become an Auburn icon, one of the great running backs in Auburn and SEC history, to be Rookie of the Year and play for eight seasons in the NFL. But he never really changed from the humble teen-ager who met reporters on that hot summer day.
Williams grew up an Alabama fan. He committed to Tennessee before switching to Auburn. And he became a loyal Auburn man through and through.
In 2015, Gus Malzahn hired Williams to coach Auburn running backs. That was a big day in his life. On Monday, after Bryan Harsin was fired, interim athletics director Rich McGlynn informed him that he would be Auburn’s interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
For Williams, it was a moment so special that describing it is difficult. He will be the first African-American to be the head coach in a football game for Auburn.
“You know, just to hear that brings chills,” Williams said in his first appearance on the SEC coaches’ teleconference. “I get goosebumps. I never thought in a million years that I would honestly be in this position.”
And I promise you he meant it. That is who he is.
Auburn players stood and cheered when Williams stood in front of them for the first time. He is beloved by those players, and not just the running backs he has coached. He is a leader with so much to teach.
Williams’ first two Auburn seasons were cut short by injuries, but he fought back. He grew up in a family of modest means, but that never took the smile off his face. He willingly shared the glory with friend and fellow running back Ronnie Brown to help Auburn go 13-0 in 2004. Injuries cropped up again in the NFL, and he became the league’s Comeback Player of the Year.
And now, even if it’s on an interim basis, he has earned the opportunity of a lifetime. By the way, recruiting goes on.
“One of the things I definitely want to get out to recruits and the rest of the world: Only at Auburn do dreams come true,” Williams said. “I’m forever indebted to this institution. It changed the whole trajectory of the Williams family. I met my wife here, (had) my two boys. Auburn has been so good to me. Every dream I wanted to accomplish, this place gave me the opportunity.”
Auburn players haven’t stopped playing hard through a numbing four-game losing streak and 3-5 record, but they will play as hard or harder with Williams running things. Will they beat Mississippi State on Saturday? Will they win another game?
“No promises,” Williams said. “One thing that’s going to make me happy is if we play good football — and hard, Auburn football. Honestly, that’s what I want to get these kids to do – play hard and compete. At the end of the day, I told these kids, win, lose or draw, if we do that, not only will we make ourselves proud, but I know the Auburn family will be proud of us, too.”
For more than two decades, Williams has made Auburn proud – on the field, in the NFL, off the field and in the way he has lives his life.
Credit: Source link