Louisville gives Williams second chance

Willie Williams was a hot topic with reporters Wednesday when Steve Kragthorpe introduced the University of Louisville's 2007 recruiting class. For anyone who has followed the story, they know that's because Williams, formerly the nation's #1 linebacker, comes with a troubled past. So why did Steve Kragthorpe take a chance on Williams when most schools wouldn't?

Willie Williams was a hot topic with reporters Wednesday when Steve Kragthorpe introduced the University of Louisville's 2007 recruiting class. For anyone who has followed the story, they know that's because Williams, formerly the nation's #1 linebacker, comes with a troubled past.

So why did Kragthorpe take a chance on Williams when most schools wouldn't?

"Number one, I like Willie as a person," Kragthorpe said.

Williams played four games at West Los Angeles Community College last season, registering 50 tackles and nine sacks. He made an official visit to Louisville last month and Kragthorpe carefully weighed the situation before going the distance with Williams.

"I had a chance to spend a lot of time with him. I went down to Miami to see him and spent time with both he and his family and also had the opportunity to have him here on his visit," said Kragthorpe. "That gave me another 48 hours to be around him and see how he would interact with the players and the people when we were downtown and the professors on the campus."

Krathorpe also did his homework. He talked to people – many people – who knew the 6-3, 225-pound Williams and could provide some insight into his character.

"I did a lot of research," Kragthorpe said. "I talked to former coaches of Willie's. I talked to his former teammates that I absolutely know would shoot me the truth. And I asked them a simple question: If you were Steve Kragthorpe do you take Willie Williams on your team?

"To a man, they all said ‘Yeah. Absolutely. He's a good guy, a self-starter, and a hard worker.'"


Kragthorpe believe Williams
deserves a second chance.

West Los Angeles C.C. coach Craig Austin, a county sheriff, told Kragthorpe and Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich that Williams, once the subject of an intense recruiting battle between Miami, Florida State and Florida, was worth the risk.

"He has matured and was incredibly focused while he was here and he never gave us any reason to punish him," Austin said. "He was always a model citizen in our program."

Williams grew up in the troubled streets of Miami Gardens. By the time he enrolled at Miami in 2004, he already had a rap sheet that included 11 arrests. But he's stayed out of trouble since high school. No problems at UM, none at West Los Angeles. Kragthorpe, Jurich and U of L are banking that those problems are far behind the star linebacker.

"He's had some challenges in his life, but he has distanced himself from those things," Kragthorpe said. "It has been three years since he's had any issues that have come up. Coaching is all about providing guidance. If you look at coaching just to win games and to make money you're in it for the wrong reasons. I look at coaching as a mission field. It's an opportunity to take guys and help them become men. My goal is to help these guys in the game of life."

If everything pans out as planned with Williams, an already talented Louisville defense just added another stud. How good is Williams? As a high school senior, he was the consensus #1 linebacker in the nation after leading Carol City to Florida's Class 6A state title, recording 18 sacks for the season. Simply, Williams is a play-maker – and a game-changer from the linebacker position.

"He was an absolute animal coming off the edge for us," Austin said. "He was probably the fastest guy on our team and he created a lot of havoc."

"He plays the game with a lot of passion and puts a lot of pressure on the passer," Kragthorpe added. "He can make plays sideline to sideline and he understands defensive and offensive concepts. And he has natural leadership tendencies."


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