Well, this is tough. Or a relief. Or maybe one of those moments in life where something tough also feels like a relief.
There might be some mixed emotions about the old guy. But let’s talk about the new guy. You know him already; Carnell Williams has been a coach in the Auburn locker room for four years.
Don’t forget about the other four years he spent in the Auburn locker room, doing what you’re doing right now.
Cadillac Williams came to Auburn as a highly touted running back from Gadsden. He started his freshman year as the number three running back behind a former Mr. Alabama in Casinious Moore and a future NFL first-rounder, Ronnie Brown.
Right away, Williams had to learn about patience, and working his way up the chart.
He got his shot against Arkansas on a sunny, cold day in Fayetteville. The freshman snapped off runs of 14 and 21 yards, before flashing his style with a 55-yard touchdown in the third quarter. In the fourth, he tallied three more 20-plus yard runs. The Hogs won, but Auburn found its feature back. Williams collected 177 yards that day. The next week Tiger fans saw the bells and the whistles, when he earned 208 total yards and two scores, including the game winner, against Georgia. He learned about success early in his career.
He learned about the hurt of watching his teammates play, too, while he rehabbed during his sophomore year. Williams missed six games with a broken leg, working through the frustration that comes with not being there for his guys, while also learning just how precious those cheers on a crisp Saturday are.
The boy of Gadsden was by then an Auburn man, and in his junior year, he was ready to ride again. While Williams had been recovering from that 2002 leg injury, the Tigers enjoyed success with Brown. So in 2003, Auburn fans were ready to enjoy an embarrassment of backfield riches. But Brown got hurt, and so it was that in his junior year Williams learned the team could lean on him. And, current Tigers, that old Tiger was incredible.
The saying was “Go crazy!” and that’s what he did, rushing for 1,307 yards and setting a school record with 17 touchdowns, including an absolute tone-setter to begin the Iron Bowl. (If you are reading this before you’ve watched that, both the athletics department and YouTube have let you down.) So he’s got a lesson about giving your all.
Look, this was a long time ago, I know — a lifetime ago. Seasons come and seasons go. The game has changed. Some things are forever, though, just like the orange and blue.
Then, as now, it wasn’t an unreasonable thought that Williams would go to the NFL after his junior year. Running backs, tread on the tires, going to the NFL, getting paid. It was a consideration, but in 2004 Williams wrote a lasting lesson about the team.
Williams and Brown announced they were staying for their senior year, together. Jason Campbell was the signal caller. The team was stacked. They all wanted to be a part of something special and that team, and Cadillac Williams, delivered in the biggest way. They took the SEC Championship, recorded a perfect season and dominated the Sugar Bowl.
The Tigers did all that and number 24 was riding in style. Williams led the 2004 team in rushing once again, collecting 1,165 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns. He finished the season with 1,718 all-purpose yards, third highest in school history, and again, playing with a bunch of guys who became folk heroes. Your coach knows a little something, you see, about the team approach.
Williams finished his collegiate career with 3,831 yards rushing, second only to that great big statue out front, and Bo Jackson had three more games in his pads. He had 45 rushing touchdowns, most in school history. He also broke the all-time Auburn career record for most rushing attempts. At the end of his senior season he was the school leader in career scoring.
His total yards statistic might be the most impressive. For his career, despite missing half his sophomore campaign and sharing the wealth in that powerful 2004 offense, Williams is second only to the great James Brooks in all-purpose yards. Williams shined as the SEC Player of the Week nine times, which is apparently a record, too.
Carnell Williams was also drafted in the first round of that historic 2005 NFL draft, spending seven seasons in the league.
The new guy has a lot to share with you about football, you see, but also, most critically, about Auburn, and about success.
This year has been tough, everyone knows. But we know this, too: Carnell Williams knows football, knows about the team, and knows all about Auburn. If you hear him say it’s time to go crazy, listen to the man.
Then go crazy.