INDIANAPOLIS — Auburn tumbled from No. 6 to unranked in the span of 21 days this past season. One week afterward, star receiver Duke Williams was kicked off the team for punching four people at a bar near campus.
It was a nightmare year for both the Tigers and Williams, who fought back tears during his Thursday media availability.
“Plenty of nights I went to sleep and I cried,” he said during an emotional interview session.
Besides his story of personal redemption, Williams also claimed that Auburn’s 7-6 season might have been saved if would have stuck around.
“I regret not finishing the season because I know I could’ve helped them,” Williams said. “If I would’ve stayed, I feel like we would’ve had a better season because we’d have caught on to the rhythm. It was just four games. We had a long season to go.”
Former teammate and Auburn wideout Ricardo Louis was also at the combine, and agreed with Williams.
“He’s right,” Louis said. “We had some good plans coming into the season, as far as us playing. But unfortunately it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to.”
Once a first-round prospect, Williams was a big reason for the preseason hype that — along with miserable quarterback play — wound up sinking the Tigers in September.
Despite his talent, two prior suspensions made the decision to dismiss Williams an easy one after his bar fight.
“Once I got in the doghouse, it was hard for me to get out,” he said. “Everything I did, it was being watched. I just had to grow up, and I ain’t grow up. Now, I’m working to be a man.”
While he did not finish his college career at the school, he still wears a thick blue and orange bracelet with the “AU” logo stamped on it.
“I don’t have no grudge against Auburn,” Williams said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be here.”