Whaley pays tribute as Williams ends career
Devwah Whaley paid tribute to Rawleigh Williams after his fellow University of Arkansas running back ended his college football career yesterday following a second neurological injury in the past year and a half.
Bermudian Whaley is now in pole position to inherit Williams' starting job and paid a touching accolade to Arkansas's leading rusher last season.
“It hurts to know that I can't play by your side anymore, but thank you for taking me under your wing, and being a great leader. Love you bro,” Whaley wrote on Twitter.
Whaley, who will be entering his sophomore campaign this autumn, was the Razorbacks' second-leading rusher last season behind Williams, a junior who was third in the Southeastern Conference in rushing yards.
However, Williams was taken from the field on a stretcher during Arkansas's final spring practice ten days ago after a hit from defensive lineman McTelvin Agim. Razorbacks head coach Bret Bielema described the injury as a “stinger”, or pinched nerve, at the time.
Williams had also suffered a broken neck against Auburn in October 2015 when Tigers linebacker Kris Frost twisted Williams's head aroud after grabbing his face mask. He rebounded, though, with 1,360 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2016. Whaley finished second on the team with 602 yards and three scores.
Texan Williams wrote on the Razorbacks' website yesterday, saying “my family is the most important thing in my life”, and “my dad always told me when I was little, ‘don't work just to be the guy in the jersey on Sundays. Work to be the guy in the nice suit that in the suite of the stadium making all the decisions.'”
Williams wrote: “I've seen the replay [of the hit ten days ago]. I saw a normal hit. That scared me. It shows me it doesn't take a big hit at this point. Any little thing can trigger it. I also saw the reaction of my mom and my sister. That broke my heart. I can't do this anymore. I want to be able to walk.
“It's tough to not be able to play football anymore because I've been playing since I was four years old. It wasn't something I wanted to do or planned on having to do so early. I've prayed, listened to my doctors, my parents and my gut. It still doesn't seem real yet, but I really don't have a choice. I've dodged the bullet twice. I realise that ... I want to live a normal life and be around my family.”
Whaley is now Arkansas's most experienced running back, but he faces a battle for the No 1 job from incoming true freshman Maleek Williams, who has enjoyed an impressive spring.