Arkansas running back Rawleigh Williams is done playing football.
Williams, the team’s leading rusher in 2016, was carted off the field during Arkansas’ spring game after a collision. Williams said Monday he was “moving on” from football in a poignant statement on Arkansas’ website.
He said the first thing he thought of after he collided with defensive end McTelvin Agim during the spring game was the potential reactions of his family members. Williams had to have neck surgery in 2015 after he was sidelined following a vicious moment when his head got violently turned sideways as a defender grabbed his facemask.
I’ve seen the replay. I saw a normal hit. That scared me. It shows me it doesn’t take a big hit at this point. Any little thing can trigger it. I also saw the reaction of my mom and my sister. That broke my heart. I can’t do this anymore. I want to be able to walk.
I’m moving onto the next chapter of my life. It’s tough to not be able to play football anymore because I’ve been playing since I was four years old. It wasn’t something I wanted to do or planned on having to do so early. I’ve prayed, listened to my doctors, my parents and my gut.
It still doesn’t seem real yet, but I really don’t have a choice. I’ve dodged the bullet twice. I realize that at the end of the day I want to live a normal life and be around my family.
The team initially termed Williams’ spring game injury as a “stinger” and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema had said the team first thought the injury didn’t have anything to do with Williams’ 2015 neck injury — though he called it a “huge scare.”
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported last week that Williams was set to meet with doctors and Bielema regarding his future with the football team.
“At Arkansas, not only does he have All-SEC academic success, but he also steps away as the reigning SEC regular season rushing leader,” Bielema said in a statement. “This next chapter in Rawleigh’s life will be filled with unlimited success in any career path or anyway of life he chooses. As a head coach I couldn’t be more excited to begin the next chapter with him and be there for him.”
Williams returned to the team in the spring of 2016 and emerged as Arkansas’ most productive running back after the departures of Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. Rawleigh Williams ran for 1,360 yards and 12 scores in 2016 after rushing for 254 yards in 2015 before his injury.
Williams’ absence from Arkansas’ backfield means sophomore-to-be Devwah Whaley will be the team’s No. 1 back entering 2017. Whaley had 110 carries for 602 yards and three touchdowns.
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