Okay . . . I know asking you to stay in school one more year is like asking a 5-year-old to stay away from the Christmas tree on December 25th, but some desperate causes are worth the fight.
Theres nary a rushing record at the University of Memphis left for you to break. (The numbers are silly, D. With 1,828 rushing yards this year, you now have the top two seasons -- by far -- in U of M history. Your 3,942 rushing yards exceed the next most prolific Tiger by more than 1,300 yards. And 40 touchdowns in three seasons?!) Having hurt your knee before last seasons New Orleans Bowl, youll finally be able to play your first postseason game at the GMAC Bowl on December 22nd. With all due respect to the line that opened holes for you this season -- from left to right, Jason Johnson, Blake Butler, Gene Frederic, Jason Matthews, and Jeremy Rone -- you have shown the kind of talent Conference USA programs merely fantasize over. New challenges, for sure, await.
But DeAngelo, there is one distinguishing trait between college superstars like yourself . . . and college legends. College legends always -- always -- play their senior year. Can you recall the euphoria in the Mid-South when Peyton Manning announced (with his degree in hand!) that he would stay at the University of Tennessee for his senior season? That emotional spasm throughout Big Orange Country just might approximate the reaction youd see if you held a similar press conference come January. You would become to the Memphis program -- with one more season of football, good, bad or ugly -- what Earl Campbell is to Texas, Archie Manning to Ole Miss, Tony Dorsett to Pittsburgh, Archie Griffin to Ohio State. Heisman Trophy or no (and apologies to your buddy, Danny Wimprine), DeAngelo Williams would be THE name attached to Memphis football, today and forever. Youd be Larry Finch with a helmet and shoulder pads.
Pardon me as I don my rose-colored shades, but there are other reasons for staying on campus. Youre on track to graduate with a degree in marketing management in December 2005. Which means (A) you could start focusing entirely on the 2006 NFL draft once the 2005 season ends and (B) you could put that new degree to use in ways most of us can never fathom.
Your mother -- Sandra Hill -- has been an inspiration to your entire team and fan base as she fights breast cancer. Needless to say, a son doesnt need fame, fortune, or accolades to inspire a mother. But what about doing the unexpected, taking the path not flashing with dollar signs and endorsement deals. I assure you, DeAngelo, Ive never seen a mom tear up with joy like one does when she sees her little one in a cap and gown.
I know, I know. An injury is waiting with the very next tackle. But think about the worst-case scenario. You saw it unfold right before your eyes in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl when Miamis star tailback Willis McGahee blew out his knee. Merely two seasons later, McGahee is starting for the Buffalo Bills. Even career-threatening injuries can be overcome. Youve done it yourself, for Petes sake.
Finally, DeAngelo, why not stay in school because youll never be appreciated more than you have been here. From your disarming smile to your burst around left tackle in the Southern Miss game, from your charm on Fan Day to your insistence on including your linemen in any and all national interviews . . . you embody what Tiger Nation long believed a U of M football player could be.
If you choose to turn pro a year early, there wont be any finger-pointing, no blaming you. To say the least, youve earned the privilege of making this choice so few college juniors get to consider. No, there wont be any blame . . . just lots of regret. You have been at the forefront of what so many before you hoped (and often promised) to do. You turned the University of Memphis into a football school. And you made fall Saturdays in the Mid-South something a little more grand than a stage for SEC competition.
And back to that smile of yours, D. You cant tell me your three years as a Tiger havent been happy days. Why cut the time short? When you get right down to it, Tiger Nation isnt asking any more from you than it has since you dodged your first tackle. Just be a hero.
The Other Option