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Auburn's Duke Williams apologizes, says he'll return
Dec. 30, 2014

Duke Williams says he's learned a lot in first season at Auburn

By Charles Goldberg

TAMPA, Fla.  The catches came easily for Duke Williams this season. Now comes the tough part.

The player who had one of the best games ever by an Auburn receiver his last time out has been reduced to a spectator for Thursday's Outback Bowl against Wisconsin because of a suspension that he says he's man enough to accept and one that comes with promise he'll do better next year.

Duke Williams said Tuesday he'll return to Auburn for his senior season and won't follow fellow star junior receiver Sammie Coates into the NFL Draft.

"I'm 100 percent coming back. I feel like we have some unfinished business," Williams said.

Williams leads Auburn with 45 catches for 730 yards and five touchdowns despite missing two games. He's coming off his best game, a seven-catch, 121-yard performance against Alabama. But even those numbers didn't stop coach Gus Malzahn from suspending Williams when he broke an undisclosed team rule in December.

Think facing a physical defensive back is tough? Try Gus Malzahn.

"He just let me know how it is. 'There are consequences,' he said. I said, 'I'm willing to accept whatever you have for me, Coach.' He gave me a chance, and I respect him for that. I learned from this mistake."

This month hasn't changed Williams' opinion of Auburn since signing with the school as one of the top junior college players in the country.

"Everything has been good since I've been at Auburn," he said. "Being away from home is hard a little bit, but it's the best for me because I just can't go home when I want to. My teammates treat me like a brother and the coaches treat me like a son. That's what I love about Auburn, everybody cares for each other and everybody wants to help each other."

Williams apologized for not being able to play in the Outback Bowl. 

"I let my teammates down and I'm sorry for that," Williams said. "I let the Auburn family down, too, and I'm sorry for that. I made a mistake, so I have to learn by that. As the days go by, and the game gets closer, I think about that because I could be out there playing with my brothers, and the seniors because it's their last year. To sit on the sidelines and watch hurts me a lot. And I know it hurts the Auburn family that I'm not playing with my team."

Williams hasn't had his normal role in practices in practice. He's been with the scout team.

He said he's OK with that.

"I'm going to go hard every time just so the defense gets a good look, and that will make them better. I just want to be out there with my team and do whatever I have to do to help my team get better," Williams said.

Williams said Auburn has lived up to its promises since he was recruited by simply giving him a chance.

"When I came on my official visit the coaches were real from Day One, and they kept their word," Williams said. "That's what I liked. When they told me I could play a big role in the offense, I wanted to come here. Plus, I liked the way Coach Malzahn coaches."

Williams, Coates and quarterback Nick Marshall helped balance things out this season. Auburn is averaging 258 yards rushing game and 231 yards passing. Williams signaled the passing game was developing when he had 154 receiving yards in the season-opener, the most by an Auburn player in his first game.

"Run, pass, whatever," Williams said. "We keep the defense on their toes. They don't know what's coming at them."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:



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