With his playing career now behind him, Williams is now back on his old stomping grounds, ready to tackle some unfinished business.
“I had the thought a couple times during my playing career, but I always felt like once I was done with football, I’d come and finish my degree,” Williams said. “I only had seven hours left, so it would’ve been a shame not to finish that.”
Two classes, world literature and Spanish II, stand between the former All-SEC running back and a sociology degree that is thirteen years in the making.
Williams said while the reading and writing of literature have been easy, jumping back into Spanish after a decade break has been difficult for him.
“I took Spanish I 11 or 12 years ago, and I need Spanish II to finish so that’s more difficult,” Williams said. “Once you don’t use it, you tend to lose it. There’s definitely a transition period in coming back.”
The compacted schedule of summer minimesters hasn’t helped Williams in his journey back to school either.
“It’s just so much information in that time, and then with me being out of school for 10 years, it’s been challenging,” Williams said. “I’ve been out of class for so long, so I find myself having to put in a lot of time to study and get stuff down pat.”
Williams’ return to class hasn’t gone unnoticed by classmates and those around campus.
“You’ll kind of see people look up during role call and I’ve had people ask if I was ‘The Carnell Williams’ and things like that,” Williams said. “It’s actually been a lot of the parents who are here for Camp War Eagle that will stop me. It’s been pretty cool.”
Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs said it speaks to Williams’ character and the University as a whole that the former athlete decided to return to school.
“We’ve had a number of our former student-athletes return to complete their degrees, and I think it’s a trend [that] will continue,” Jacobs said. “They know from being here that Auburn is a special place and that completing a college degree opens doors for the rest of your life.”
Williams’ on-the-field exploits made him the No. 5 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The former All-American accumulated 4,038 rushing yards in his six-year NFL career, which ended 2011.
His playing days may be behind him, but that doesn’t mean Williams is ready to step away from the game.
“I’m torn between getting back into coaching,” Williams said. “I definitely want to stay connected with the game of football because that’s what I’m passionate about. It’s what I love to do and I feel like I could help younger people, whether it’s high school or people in college trying to get to their destination.”
In the meantime, ‘Cadillac’ is just happy to be back in a place where he can achieve his goals and set an example for his five-month old son, Cole.
“It’s almost like I never left because of the family atmosphere around here,” Williams said. “They’ve continued to accept me in and it’s just a blessing.”
“I’m looking forward to playing the ‘Daddy’ role since it’s my first time. I may push him in the direction of football, but he can make that decision. He’s got my genes though, so he’s going to play ball.”