Williams makes a big first impression

Reggie Williams was as hyped as any freshman to have ever graced the University of Washington campus when he arrived from Lakes High School. He was an all-American and was touted as one of the greatest recruiting gets in school history. There is no way anyone could live up to the hype that surrounded the tall, muscular receiver.

Someone forgot to tell that to #1.

In his first season as a collegiate, all Williams did was lead the Huskies in receptions, hauling in 55 catches for 973 yards and three scores in 11 regular season games. In the Holiday Bowl against perhaps the top cornerback in America (Texas' Quentin Jammer), Williams more than held his own, grabbing five balls for 65 yards.

It was a sensational freshman season. At 6-4 215 pounds and the ability to travel 40 yards in just about 4.4 seconds, Williams has Husky fans salivating at what could be. Catching passes from Cody Pickett for the next few seasons is enough to get even the most pessimistic of Husky fans just a little bit excited.

It's fun to think back when we were watching him in the final fall scrimmage before the season began. Even then, you could tell Reggie was going to be special. The dedicated fans in attendance that day "ooohed" and "aahhed" with his every catch. The added excitement leading up to the opener against Michigan had everything to do with, "I can't wait to see what Reggie can do!"

Williams started the first game of the season as a true freshman. That has never been done by a Husky wide receiver in history.

Pressure? Well, maybe a little.

It was evident when Pickett fired his first pass to Williams, who promptly dropped it. Then Pickett lofted another spiral his way that eluded his grasp.

Welcome to college football, Reggie. Coach Neuheisel summoned him to the bench and had a funny message for him.

"I told him that ‘you've broken your maiden' and now it's time to go out there and have fun," said Neuheisel.

He responded.

"I was open on both of those so I knew I could get open and catching the ball was just the easy part. I was just ready to get back in there and prove that I wasn't a flop or anything and that I was ready to shine," said Williams, recalling those first-game jitters.

A flop? Um…… no. I hardly think so!

Williams is not all that surprised by his success this year, just maybe taken aback by how productive he was.

"I didn't think I would have almost 1,000 yards. I didn't even have that in high school," laughed Reggie. "I had no clue that it was going to blow up like this. I expected it some, it wasn't a big shocker, but I didn't expect to have almost a ‘G.'"

Williams played well beyond his years all season. It's hard to fathom that this was his first year in the program.

"Things aren't that new to me. I feel like I've been here for a little bit. I still have to do freshman chores and stuff like that but, on the field, I don't think so," answered Williams, when asked if it still felt like he was a freshman.

Although home is not too far for Reggie, he is happy to be independent and out on his own, even if it means life without mom's home-cooked meals during the week.

"It really hasn't been that difficult because I see my family on the weekends and I get to go home every now and then. I call them and stuff so, I really haven't been homesick. I like the freedom and being able to be on my own."

Off the field, Reggie has noticed a big improvement in himself since the beginning of the school year. "Time management – how I manage my time. When school first started, I was like, ‘what do I do, what do I do?' Now, I've gotten into a groove and I'm able to just do my thing. I've also been adapting to the game, the speed of college football."

"It's been pretty cool with all the tutoring and the study time we have every day, it is easy to pick up," said Williams. "It is just weird being in a lecture with 500 people and you just have to listen to the teacher for the whole 50 minutes. That's the big change, really, having so many people in class."

Was the contact what he expected at the college level? Williams is still finding out.

"I don't get hit hard," he said. When recalling the biggest hit he took, he answered, "At UCLA, on the sideline. That was probably the hardest. I think it was a fade and I was out of bounds."

"I got a few good licks in myself. When we ran a screen, I got a few good hits in. It's been cool."

As a freshman coming onto the college football stage, dealing with the media can be quite frustrating. But Reggie has gracefully dealt with the media, even after the disappointing losses when others found it too difficult to answer questions.

"I like doing interviews. It is a chance to get my word out. It's been cool, I like the media. After practice it can be tough because you're tired. You may want to go eat or something, but I don't get bothered by it. I'd rather have it than not have it. A lot of people don't have a chance to be in the spotlight like that," said Williams.

Now that Washington is in the throes of recruiting, Williams finds himself in a different role. He's now an ambassador for the University, attempting to get other young men to join him at Washington to continue the winning Husky tradition, and to try to fill the shoes of a Larry Tripplett or a Willie Hurst.

"A year ago, I was here on my recruiting trip trying to decide where I was going to go to college," reminisced Williams.

"It's been kind of like the twilight zone, kind of deja vu-ish. I was going through the same thing last year, watching practices and just being confused about where you are going to go to school and having all of that weight on your shoulders. And now, for me to be here and see them going through the same things, it's weird."

Only time will tell if anxious Dawg fans are going to have to watch any more press conferences on Fox Sports again this season. That is how Williams told the world that he was going to stay home and attend school in Seattle.

Can our hearts handle another "PUT DOWN THAT UCLA HAT OR ELSE" episode?

It sounds like Reggie is thrilled that he chose to put on that purple hat with the gold "W" that evening, as he is definitely enjoying the college life in Seattle.

"I'm having a lot of fun. College so far has been a blast. I still have a couple of years left, so this is just starting for me."

Looking forward to next year, Williams admits that there are things he could improve upon.

"My speed, my route running, my footwork can always get better and, of course, you can never catch enough balls," smiled Reggie.

And what melodious words those are to Husky fans . . . "I still have a couple of years left . . . ."

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