After wide receiver D'haquille "Duke" Williams was suspended for the Outback Bowl in January, he announced in an interview with AuburnTigers.com that he would return for his senior season to take care of "unfinished business."
That business will remain unfinished.
Williams has been dismissed from the Auburn football team, head coach Gus Malzahn announced Monday night.
"When individuals fail to meet the expectations of our program, there has to be consequences," Malzahn said in a statement from the athletic department. "I gave D’haquille the chance to prove himself. I am disappointed that it did not work out."
Malzahn and two players provided their thoughts on the situation at a press conference on Tuesday night.
“Any time you have to make a tough call and dismiss a player, it’s not easy," Malzahn said. "But at the same time, this is a team sport and you’re always going to think about the team first."
Malzahn refused to comment on the incident that led to Williams' dismissal, and he also would not specify if other players were involved.
When asked about Williams' reaction to the dismissal, Malzahn said only "not much."
As for the team's response, senior cornerback Jonathan Jones said the dismissal has had no effect on the team's attitude or goals moving forward.
"We want to try to keep all distractions out of the way and try to stay positive as a team," Jones said. "That was unfortunate, but as a team we have to come together and continue on. We still have the season to continue."
Senior wide receiver Jonathan Wallace was disappointed to see Williams go, but he added the dismissal is the best thing for the team.
"It’s kind of unfortunate what happened, but you got to draw the line somewhere," Wallace said. "We’ve moved forward, and everybody has handled it the right way. ... Personally, I love him to death. I’m sad to see that this had to take place, but it was needed to be done."
In the preseason, Williams was suspended for six days because of an undisclosed "discipline issue", but returned to start in Auburn's season opener against Louisville.
Malzahn said he does not regret the way he handled Williams' disciplinary issues in the past.
“I feel good about the process that led us up to this point," Malzahn said. "Like I said, the biggest thing is you’re disappointed when you have to get rid of a player. You hope that things would be different and you hope that he would’ve responded differently.”
Despite the rash of off-the-field issues Williams faced during his time at Auburn, Jones insisted the receiver was never a distraction.
"All teams are going to have people get in trouble and things happen on and off the field," Jones said. "But it’s up to the team to come together and put that to the side and say ‘Hey, we’re going to focus on football.’ We’ve always been able to do that.”
Williams transferred to Auburn in 2014 from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, and immediately cemented himself as one of the top receivers in the country.
He finished with 45 catches for 730 yards and five touchdowns in ten games in 2014, but was limited significantly this season, catching only 12 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown.
Despite the disappointing end to his time at Auburn, Malzahn believes Williams' decision to attend Auburn was a good one.
“I’ve seen him grow as a person when he was here," Malzahn said. "I think this place was good for him, and we wish him nothing but the best in the future.”