INDIANAPOLIS — An emotional D’haquille “Duke” Williams fought back tears Thursday afternoon while updating the media on his path to the NFL Draft.
The former Auburn wide receiver was kicked off the team in October following a bar fight and two previous suspensions. His personal life — and draft stock — cratered in the aftermath.
“Plenty of nights I went to sleep and I cried,” Williams said, his voice shaking. “I really cried. Because I ain’t hurt myself. I also hurt my family. My friends. My teammates. Coaches who gave me chance after chance. I hurt them.”
With anxiety and regret consuming him, Williams decided to attend counseling sessions.
“I had to really collect myself as a person,” he said. “When I lost football, it felt like I lost a lot of things. It’s something I put my heart into. And to lose it overnight; it wasn’t worth it.”
An NFL combine invite lifted his spirits after the new year, and he now faces a tough task: Convincing teams he’s not the same man who got himself kicked out of Auburn.
Last year, many analysts saw Williams as a top pick in the draft.
“If I didn’t get in any trouble, I know I’m a legit first-round pick,” he said. “God had other plans. I’m a first-round pick no matter what, but off the field, I’m a seventh-round pick. My character’s a seventh-round pick.”
With surveillance footage of his bar assault still readily available on the Internet, Williams will be under close observation by all 32 teams before the draft begins in late April.
Thursday, he emphasized the need to be accountable.
“I regret the fight,” he said. “(Coach Gus) Malzahn, he gave me chance after chance. It’s not his fault. It’s my fault because I should’ve learned. He took a chance on me. And I hurt the Auburn family by getting dismissed.”