Tennessee Stat Book
The good news just keeps on coming for Tennessee’s football team.
Some three and half years after signing with the Vols, linebacker Gerald Williams will finally be able to play in a game for UT after the SEC granted his eligibility Friday.
Williams, a 2005 signee from Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., returned to practice Friday for the first time since Aug. 20 after receiving the word during a team meeting earlier in the day.
Williams, who has three years of eligibility remaining, will make the trip to UCLA for Tennessee’s opener Monday night (TV: ESPN, 8 p.m.).
“The whole team stood up and gave him a standing ovation,” UT coach Phillip Fulmer said. “He’s been through a lot to get here. It’s been hard on him. I personally want to say how much I appreciate our conference office and our administration.”
Williams expressed excitement over the news.
“I’m just grateful to the SEC office, our compliance office and the administration,” Williams said in a statement released by Tennessee. “It was tough, but I love UT. With all I’ve been through to get here – it feels great. I’m excited to be wearing orange and playing for Coach Fulmer, Coach (John) Chavis and my teammates.”
Williams spent last year at City College of San Francisco and 2006 at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy. He sat out the 2005 season after the NCAA Clearinghouse flagged his transcript following his enrollment at UT and practiced with the team.
Friday’s decision was the second time in the last month that a Tennessee player successfully won an appeal regarding eligibility. The NCAA granted Florida State transfer Brandon Warren’s hardship appeal Aug. 19.
Beyond a few special teams snaps, Fulmer said he’s unsure how much Williams will play Monday.
Before sitting out practice while waiting on word about his eligibility, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound sophomore worked primarily behind Ellix Wilson and Nick Reveiz at middle linebacker.
The SEC’s decision couldn’t have come much later.
After receiving the final paperwork on Williams this week, the conference made a quick decision that came just hours before the deadline to drop and add classes for the fall semester. Without a ruling Friday, Williams would have had to sit out another year.
At the heart of Williams’ appeal was a new SEC rule that requires junior college transfers who were non-qualifiers out of high school to pass two English and two math courses at a junior college to be eligible at an SEC school.
Williams took his final math class as a correspondence course at UT after arriving here this summer. The SEC rule, which went into effect Aug. 1, does not allow correspondence courses in core requirements to count toward an athlete’s eligibility.
Fulmer declined to provide specifics on Williams’ appeal process, however Fulmer was clearly pleased by the good news.
“It’s wonderful to have him out there,” Fulmer said. “He’s worked so hard to get himself here. I’m excited for him as much as I am us to have him around. He’s got to go to work now and prove his merit, but he’s the type of young man that will definitely do that.”
Fulmer Show Goes On: The Phillip Fulmer Show will air at its normally scheduled time Sunday morning at 11 (TV: WVLT) in Knoxville, despite the fact Tennessee doesn’t play until Monday.
The show, which usually features a recap of Saturday’s game and a look at the following week’s opponent, will instead focus on the UT-UCLA series.
Drew Edwards covers Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.