Gerald Jones sings to knoxnews producer Erin Chapin
- Coach Fulmer on his strategy heading into fall practice
- Coach Fulmer: Injured player list
- Coach Fulmer on team leadership
- Josh McNeil: Getting back into shape
- Rico McCoy: 'It should be an interesting year'
- Nick Stephens: 'We feel like we're ready'
- Chris Walker: The weight room is nothing, but yoga's been challenging
- Daniel Lincoln: 'It's like going from middle school to high school'
Dave Hooker's Audio
- Phillip Fulmer addresses the media
- Dave Hooker interviews offensive coordinator Dave Clawson about QB Jonathan Crompton
- Dave Hooker interviews QB Jonathan Crompton about starting fall practice as a starter and the support he still gets from his hometown in North Carolina
- Dave Hooker interviews LB/DE Gerald Williams about his long journey to UT
- Dave Hooker interviews TE Aaron Douglas about being a Vol and overcoming offseason shoulder surgery
- Dave Hooke interviews RB Lennon Creer about adding offseason muscle and overcoming knee surgery
- Dave Hooker interviews DE coach Steve Caldwell about losing two senior starters and finding depth in preseason
- Dave Hooker interviews DT Demonte Bolden about growing into an elite player
- Dave Hooker interviews safeties Demetrice Morley and Eric Berry about UT’s secondary
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 email@example.com.