March 20, 2014
Wide receiver D’haquille Williams says he’s focused on making a big impact at Auburn
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala.- Wide receiver D’haquille Williams had been through his second Auburn practice. It was 10:30 a.m. Thursday, and he had a class at 11. Later, there would be meetings and study hall. Such is the life he has chosen.
Williams, known to almost everyone as Duke, was the nation’s top junior college prospect when he signed with Auburn in December out of Mississippi Gulf Coast. At 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, Williams has the talent and the athleticism to play in the NFL. But that will have to wait.
When he graduated from junior college, Williams could have gone almost anywhere. He chose to sign with Auburn, to play for head coach Gus Malzahn and wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig.
“It’s the community and the players and the coaches,” Williams said. “Every coach is willing to help us. Our coach is like the father some of us never had. They are there for us, no matter what the situation. We can talk to them about anything. The coaches and the players and the community, I like it here.
“I made the choice to come here. It’s been everything I expected to be.”
Growing up near New Orleans, life was not easy for Williams. His mother, Janie, was left to raise eight children on her own, and he was the youngest. He didn’t qualify academically out of East St. John High School, went to junior college, succeeded in the classroom and became an All-American.
“My childhood was tough, but I fought through it - not really having my father there, my mom raising eight kids on her own,” Williams said. “Every challenge, I just took it slow. When I was knocked down, I just got back up. That’s in the past, and I’m working on my future.”
And in working on his future, Williams says he’s working on his mother’s future, too.
“My mom was my dad,” Williams said. “I just look up to her. At the end of the day, I want to make her smile. My mom motivates me more than anybody. I just want to make her smile. I’m trying to make it where she won’t have to want for anything anymore.”
Williams is fully aware of the expectations that followed him to Auburn. He saw it in the online celebration when he committed to LSU last summer and the anger when he abandoned that commitment. He saw it again when he committed to Auburn and signed with Auburn.
“I’m willing to take the challenge,” Williams said. “I just have to be willing to work every day and not get distracted. I have to take care of business on and off the field. I just have to put in the time, and hopefully I can reach those expectations.”
It was Craig who convinced Williams to sign with Auburn, and it is Craig who is teaching him now what it takes to be a wide receiver in Malzahn’s hurryup offense and in the Southeastern Conference.
“He’s doing well,” Craig said. “The way we practice is a lot different than what he’s used to. The tempo and the conditioning part are different. He shows flashes. He’s picking the system up pretty well. He’s getting better every snap. I’ve been pleased with him.”
Offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee says he has seen enough of Williams to understand why he was the consensus choice as the nation's top junior college prospect.
“You can tell why we needed him and why we wanted him,” Lashlee said. “He's got God-given abilities that are really good, and I think he'll really add value to our wide receiving corps. Right now, he's just getting acclimated to how we practice. It's a little different probably than he's ever experienced before, and he's done a great job. The best thing is he's had a great attitude. He's worked hard, he's bought in, he's blended in with his teammates great.”
Williams says it’s been an eye-opening experience. He thought the offense he ran at Mississippi Gulf Coast went fast. The past two days, he’s seen a different kind of tempo. And it will get faster still.
“The first two practices weren’t easy,” Williams said. “I just have to adjust to the fast-paced offense. We ran no-huddle in junior college, but it wasn’t this fast.”
Craig says the journey will be neither short nor easy, but he says Williams has made it clear he intends to get there.
“He’s got the talent,” Craig said. “He’s learning, and he’s a competitor.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: