April 19, 2014
AUBURN, Ala. – For more than an hour after Auburn’s A-Day game, D’haquille Williams signed his named and posed for pictures. Standing near the spot where Chris Davis turned for corner and ran into Auburn history on Nov. 30, Williams scarcely had room to move.
Williams signed for the young and the old. He posed for pictures with little children, with teenagers and with the parents of the teenagers. When it was time to leave and he headed toward the tunnel to the Auburn locker room, the crowd moved with him.
“That was new to me, everybody wanting an autograph,” Williams said when he finally had gone inside. “It was a big blessing. It was fun. The fans really love us. That just kept a smile on my face, because I’ve never experienced anything like that.”
Auburn fans came more than 70,000 strong to Jordan-Hare on Saturday to get their first look at the Tigers of 2014. They got a chance to look back, too, at halftime when the Tigers of 2013 got their Southeastern Conference championship ring.
High on the list of who and what the fans wanted to see was the 6-foot-2, 216-pound wide receiver who came to Auburn from Louisiana with a detour to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Williams was the nation’s top junior college prospect. Once spring practice started, anyone who was listening heard the talk about what Williams was doing.
On Saturday, they got to see it. Williams caught five passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. He found openings in the middle of the field. He made tough catches. He made tough, leaping grab on a fade for a touchdown.
And the crowd loved it, calling out “Duuuuuke,” the nickname by which Williams is probably known more than his given name.
“I just wanted to show people a preview of what they are going to get during the season,” Williams said. We are going to have the best receiving corps in the nation.”
Williams knew before he came to Auburn that football is a big deal in the Southeastern Conference. He learned more when he cheered on Nov. 30 as Davis returned a missed field goal 109 yards and Auburn beat Alabama 34-28. And he learned even more Saturday.
“It was a lot of fun, especially when they chanted my name,” Williams said. “When I came to the Alabama game, that really made me want to come even faster. Now that I’m here, it’s just a blessing to play in front of the best fans in the nation. The fans love us, so we just love them back.”
The game itself went as it should have gone. With the first team offense playing against the second team defense, it was a mismatch. It was even more of a mismatch because the defense has been plagued by injuries.
So it was that the Blue won 58-3. Nick Marshall threw four touchdown passes, two to Quan Bray, one to Sammie Coates and one to Williams. Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant ran for chunks of yardage. The first-team defense allowed the second-team defense no breathing room.
It was a day for having fun, for the fans and for the players. And nobody had more fun than D’haquille “Duke” Williams.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: