These days, it's not often you get an athlete, or anyone in the spotlight, to fess us when they've done something wrong. For every baseball player that admits to steroids, there's fifty who play the "I don't want to talk about the past" card. And if we do get an admission, it's only after the evidence is too overwhelming to deny any longer. Hell, we're even seeing athletes destroy evidence when their egos get bruised, God forbid we see them as human beings.
So it's quite a refreshing read today out of The Buffalo News as Jerry Sullivan gets Syracuse wide receiver Mike Williams to open up about the cheating scandal that got him booted from SU a year ago. At the time, we thought it was the last we'd hear from Mike, at least until he caught on with a 1-AA school and tried to make it pro. But Mike did something you don't usually see from athletes today...he actually tried to make good on his errors. And he's coming clean in the process.
"I felt like I messed up for all of Buffalo," Williams said Wednesday. "I felt like it was all on me. My mom always said, "Get us out of here, get everybody out of here.' What she means is I can put Buffalo on the map. I felt I let her down, let Buffalo down."
..."He felt terrible and embarrassed," said Bill Russell, the veteran Riverside coach who has been a mentor to Williams. "He was insecure about his future. It was a traumatic experience for him. It's tough when you're floating along. The higher you are and the more status you have, the harder the fall."
...Early in January, with tears in his eyes, Williams returned to SU. He met with the dean, filed his paperwork and resumed his career as a top D-I student-athlete. Williams is spending the summer on campus. He's running and lifting weights, conducting seven-on-seven workouts with his offensive teammates, and taking a class in sports management.
Williams goes on to talk about the statistic at Syracuse about how once a player gets suspended at Syracuse, they don't return. He might as well be speaking about college athletics at large. How often do we ever see a player get kicked out of school for an entire year only to work harder than ever to win back their detractors and prove they deserve a second chance? 1-AA programs are littered with guys who chose Door #2, the easy option.
Instead of being just another one of those statistics, Williams is re-writing his legacy and, if he returns to the form he had his junior season (60 catches, 837 yards and 10 TDs), he'll be right back where he was...on the road to superstardom. Sure, NFL draftniks will harp on the cheating suspension all day and night and it will hang over Williams like a black cloud until his name gets called. But all signs point to Mike rising above it no matter how it plays out.
Mike says that his nickname these days is "One More" because he does one more of everything in the gym and in practice. It could also be the name that Syracuse fans watching him this season give him. As we're all just thankful for one more season to watch him play.