Strange: Saga of Gerald Williams comes full circle

Gerald Jones sings to knoxnews producer Erin Chapin

The saga of Gerald Williams came full circle Saturday. There he was, wearing No. 57, standing on the green grass in Neyland Stadium with his teammates.

It was Media Day for Tennessee football and Williams is again part of Tennessee football. If he never makes a tackle, his mere presence itself is remarkable.

“I’ve never seen a guy pay the price that he’s paid to come to a school,’’ said UT coach Phillip Fulmer.

You could make a case that no player ever wanted to be a Vol more than Gerald Williams, a kid who grew up in South Florida.

He’s no kid anymore. He’ll celebrate his 22nd birthday with the Vols at Auburn on Sept. 27.

Many of his contemporaries on the squad are seniors, looking to finish their careers on a high note. Williams is just getting started, after the most nightmarish recruiting process imaginable.

Williams’ lengthy file in our newspaper archive began in October 2004, his senior year at Lauderdale Lakes High School, when he and Vladimir Richard de-committed from Florida. In 2005, he signed with UT, along with South Florida pals Richard and Demetrice Morley.

Williams reported to UT in the summer of 2005, practiced a couple of weeks, then was pulled off the field. Thus began his torturous journey through the NCAA Clearinghouse that certifies the eligibility of incoming players.

n Sept. 9, 2005: Williams sent home.

“I didn’t believe it at first,’’ he said Saturday. “It was totally heartbreaking.’’

n Dec. 4, 2005: Williams re-commits. “I’m coming back in January.’’

January came and went.

n June 14, 2006: Williams expects to enroll next week.

And then the next week, and the next ...

n Aug. 18, 2006: Williams has to retake ACT to validate improvement.

He enrolled in September, but not where he planned.

n Sept. 15, 2006: Williams to Fork Union.

Williams played the 2006 season at the Virginia military prep school. He wrote to his friend Richard at UT that it was like jail.

“That’s basically what it was,’’ Williams said, “being told what to do all the time, not having free time. But at the same time it’s making you a better person.’’

And a better football player. He couldn’t wait to get back to UT in January for winter workouts.

n Jan. 23, 2007: Williams enrolls at City College of San Francisco.

Some guys have to go to prep school, some to junior college. Williams was devastated to find he had to do both.

“I go to prep school, do everything that needs to be done, then being told I didn’t do it even though I did do it,’’ he said.

“That was really one of the lowest points of my life.’’

In the 2007 season, Williams recorded 146 tackles at linebacker as City College finished 12-1. Not having to hear Reveille blown every morning at 5:55 was a bonus.

“San Francisco was lovely, after Fork Union,’’ Williams said. “If I’d known I had to go that route I would have just gone there instead of Fork Union.’’

n Feb. 17, 2008: Williams signs with UT again.

Since getting back to Knoxville, Williams has taken a class at Pellissippi State and is finishing one more math class at UT. Me, I’d still be holding my breath but he says no worries.

“There’s no doubt in my mind this time,’’ he said. “There’s nothing they can do. I’ve got the documents.’’

So now Tennessee fans can finally get to know Williams. He’s a 6-foot-4, 240-pound linebacker. After all his travels, he begins as a sophomore.

Before the first shot is fired, he already has won his teammates’ admiration.

“All the garbage he’s been through,’’ said senior running back Arian Foster, “the yeses, the nos and the maybes, for him to stick it out. A lot of people would have quit, period, on football and school.’’

“That’s crazy,’’ said linebacker Rico McCoy, “for a guy to keep pushing that long to get where he wants to be.

“I’m impressed, really. He wanted to play for that Orange so bad.’’

No one is more impressed than Richard, who redshirted in 2005 and is beginning his junior year. He was his best friend’s eyes and ears at UT the past three years.

“We talked, if not every day, then every other day,’’ said Richard. “He stayed strong through it, stayed committed to Tennessee.’’

Richard said Williams is ready to play football, that he surprised the conditioning staff by hanging with the veterans right away.

Another thing, he said Williams doesn’t like hearing the guys complain about minor inconveniences.

“He’s been through stuff way tougher than here at Tennessee,’’ Richard said. “He’s been through three years of hard work and struggles.

“But he’s here. That’s all that matters.’’

Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276 or strangem@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 45

TommyJack writes:

That's toughness.

BSweet writes:

Any true Vol fan has to love this kid's heart. I'm glad he stuck it out and has made it to our team. I think he will be a great leader. Good luck, Gerald, and thank you!

FWBVol writes:

This is what the Spirit of the Hill, and being a Tennessee Volunteer is all about. Well done Gerald, and go get em.

jasvol writes:

Gerald... to you I say thank you for staying true to your heart and yourself. Congratulations! Your the guy I'm most looking forward to seeing play! Your grit and determination is what will lead us to great victories for the next 3 years!

1manningfan writes:

If this man is on the playing field this season, i will be his #1 fan. What he has gone through to get to this point is beyond words, i am impressed with his character and mental toughness. Fulmer wanted a leader, he got one and his name Gerald Williams. This is the type of athletes fans want on their teams, and i couldn't be more happy that hes here on GOOD ol' ROCKY TOP!!!

Thanks Gerald for representing Tennessee Vols

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Man, what a journey. Hope it works out for him.

Dupree had a similiar time getting thru 4th grade...

burntorangeVOLffle writes:

You can't help but amire this kid's.... uh, that is, grown man's dedication to TN. Hopefully everything he's been through will ranslate into some hard hits on the field.

HEY GERALD, TAKE IT OUT ON THE BLUE AND FAKE ORANGE SEPT 20. THEN KEEP GOING ALL THE WAY TO DEC 1.

pammyvol1000 writes:

BSweet: I'm with you. You gotta love this guy.
I love forward to seeing him play this year.
What a story!!

chrisw2967 writes:

could be another Al Wilson ? lets hope so
cant wait to see this guy on the field

ETownVol writes:

Welcome, Gerald. If heart translates to success, the sky's the limit for you. If every player had this much drive, determination and heart we'd be unstoppable. GO VOLS!!!

BSweet writes:

Naval- After everything he's been through, Gerald has shown he has a real hunger for the game. He may not start out immediately on the depth chart, but if he continues to demonstrate that hunger, they may not be able to keep him off for long. I think it's all up to him, and after years of being yanked around by powers beyond his control, he will relish the oppurtunity(did I spell that right?) to be the master of his own destiny. I think he brings a new intensity to the d, and I hope they all learn something from his dedication. I look forward to seeing what he does because I think he can be great! Continue to work hard young man and you will reach your dreams! Go Vols!

GerryOP writes:

Wow! Talk about commitment! This dude exemplifies it! Welcome to Ktown, see you at Neyland!

RJ_Vol writes:

You know, there are athletes that won't honor a recruiting commitment. And then there is Gerald Williams who simply refuses to be refused. We're with you, Gerald! Keep that positive attitude, get your degree, and plant that Power-T on some folks to make you feel better.

Bigger_Al writes:

If Florida really was the one behind the "fetch a rock" routine the NCAA put Gerald through, here is hoping that, in a play near the UF sideline, Gerald accidentally whiffs on a Gator and knocks Urban into the 3rd row of section T.

BSweet writes:

Al- Not that I wouldn't love to see Urban take one to the chops, but doesn't the Gerald Williams saga predate him at UF? Didn't we first recruit this kid when Zook was there? I'm not sure, but I believe so. Still, to see Urban get knocked the "f" out would be pretty sweet. And before you lurking gators get offended, you know you would love to see Timmy run over Phil. I don't wish Meyer permanent harm, but to see them take the smelling salts to him, that would make me laugh!

I_Sweat_Orange writes:

Bigger_Al.......That would be freakin awesome....no one I would love to see get hammered more than Urban other than Timmy....I dont care if we go 2-10 as long as we beat North Cuba and Abalama

BornNBredAVol writes:

by far my favorite story this offseason! this guy truly wants to be a Vol! gerald, only 29 days, 23 hours, and 23 minutes till your finally suited up as a vol wearin that power T helmet at UCLA! good luck gerald, we're all proud of you and wish you the best of luck

txsvol#372416 writes:

This is a guy that I hope makes All-American before he's through, and then, goes on to the NFL and has an Al Wilson kind of impact. Great to finally have you aboard, Gerald! Go Vols! SAVol

BornNBredAVol writes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqcSk7...
great ut video to get you ready for the UT-Florida game

zbbb10#212690 writes:

bornnbred that is the baddest video ever. john henderson was in the corner chewin on tires. im fired up

zbbb10#212690 writes:

who thinks that UT should give a Inky Johnson award to the hardest hitting db each year?

CoverOrange writes:

Given what SJT said, this article answers absolutely no questions.

Come on Mike, did you even pose the question of "why"? Or are you a sports reporter cause it's easy?

budrhon writes:

This is what this team needs to feed off of - simple put ENDURANCE!

zbbb10#212690 writes:

Inky at cb last year and maybe bama wins but d.j. hall doesnt have 50 for 500 yards. would he really still hav been playin last year? that seems 4ever ago. his tackle 4 loss on jeff smardzja? n n.d. game was highlight of the year. our d that year he got hurt would have been badars with him and big justin. they were huge losses in a little win (air force).

Goodvol writes:

Gerald, I'm proud of you. That first hit will feel sweet!

FatherVol writes:

BornNBred, I was at the '71 game which CPF mentions. I was seated with my roommates in the end zone where that 99-1/2 yard drive began with very little time on the clock. It was a long drive and the crowd was very tense. What a celebration there was after that game! It was every bit as exciting as the 2001 win in The Swamp. Thanks for the memory.

910248630291942985 writes:

what a heart, welcom Gerald, we love you

cjraney writes:

Welcome Gerald, you're finally here. Stay on top of your business and best of luck playing SEC football.

RockyTop1 writes:

Welcome to BIG ORANGE COUNTRY now let's take out some of the frustration out on the gators and bamers!! GO VOLS!!

johnlg00 writes:

The Big Orange kool-aid is flowing with a mighty rush at my house right now! I'm really starting to sense something special about this team. Everyone knows that the talent margin is paper-thin at UT's level of competition. Success comes from superior preparation, motivation, and execution. Some posters have said--indeed, say constantly--that those factors are precisely the ones missing in this program for (choose your own preferred number) years. I increasingly have the feeling that those factors will be advantages for us this year. We seem to have a large number of exceptional young men on this team, many with extra reasons to prove themselves. This team may be one that plays at a consistently high level of effort--all game, all year. That is the way true character is displayed in football. If all that comes true, we could be in for a special year. I CAN HARDLY WAIT!!! GO BIG ORANGE!!!

waterskier3#226480 writes:

6.4 240??? do they keep it at lb or put weight on him and make him light, fast DE??.. i hope he stays at lb has the right size to lay the wood :)

invisiblekid writes:

I'd rather see these guys come in right away with their academics a priority but it obviously doesn't always happen that way. You have to admire the perserverance displayed by Williams and Morley. I can't wait to give both of these players a standing ovation at the home opener. Getting back into the uniform is a major victory for both players, excelling on the field will make it that much better.

bobbarbilly writes:

With the determination that this young man has, HE IS GONNA PLAY!!
I would rather have a player with the guts and determination that Gerald has than a 5 star narcissistic, prima donna any day. Go Gerald!!! Go Vols!!!

johnlg00 writes:

Given that the Orange kool-aid is known to bring on hallucinations when consumed in excess, I am starting to suspect some pretty unorthodox defensive alignments on occasion. With our enormous number of quality LB/DB players and our famous lack of quality numbers on the DL, I could see formations with only two D-linemen. If, for example, Williams and Abrams-Ward develop as we hope, there are two 240lb-range guys who could be either DE's or LB's, and who combine speed and power at either position. No disrespect to our DL's, but if they can't dominate the middle of the line in classic UT fashion, why not totally load up in favor of a secondary-dominated defense aimed at producing pressure and turnovers at all costs. In other words, if they are going to be able to run the ball on us, let's at least have the fastest guys possible chasing them! I know, I know, Chavis is not likely to sell out for such a philosophy and CPF wouldn't let him, but it is fun to think about(;-).

murrayvol writes:

And the ship finally comes in. Some thought it never would. Damn glad to see you Mr. Williams.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Temporarily out of Grey Goose Orange as of this writing. More should go out next week.

Pockets of serious buyers are popping up everywhere. Have an option of two 5000 gallon tankers should Vols prevail over Gators. Haven't sent any $$$ on that PO yet. Stay tuned.

UCLA.

Displaced_Vol_Fan writes:

Everyone knows that adversity doesn't build character, it reveals character. The character for both Gerald Williams and Demetrice Morley have been revealed with their dedication and persistence to return to UT. While D-Mo's problems were totally self inflicted, I feel comfortable including him with Gerald Williams. How many kids get kicked out of school and do what it takes to return to the same school. UT will be successful this year because there are so many HIGH CHARACTER kids on this team.

rbut5252#220065 writes:

a 6' 4" LB??? What are the chances you think of putting on about 10 or 15 lbs and becoming a pass rushing DE?

orangebloodgmc writes:

I know this is premature, but my gut feeling says please, please, please leave him at middle linebacker!

VolFanInAtl writes:

"I love it when a plan comes together.", Hannibal

invisiblekid writes:

Let me know when you get some more in stock pdhuff, you have a loyal customer here.

RockyTop31174 writes:

I tell ya what, I don't think I've ever seen a kid (if you can call a 22yr old a kid) who wanted to wear the orange&white so bad. Everyone should applaud this guy for all the phooey the n-c-double azzholes put him through.

orangebloodgmc writes:

I was just looking at our draft depth chart in the 2008 media guide at utsports.com and G.Williams is not on there, I guess his status was not yet known at time that guide was produced. It will be good to add him in there at either mlb or de.

orangebloodgmc writes:

We can use him at LB. Ellix Wilson, McKenzie and Myers-White are all seniors, I believe. Rico is just a junior.

orangebloodgmc writes:

Check out Gerald Williams in the video at lower left with teammates Berry and Morley.

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