Roy Williams and UT

I thought this last year, but I’m glad John Lopez said it yesterday. People need to hear it.

UT’s fun-loving Williams shows it truly isn’t all about the money

By JOHN P. LOPEZ

SAN DIEGO – The voice-mail message was clear and resonant.

“This is Roy Williams . . . I guess you’d answer your cell phone if this was Andre Johnson,” Williams said.

There he goes again. Having fun.

There he goes, being a college kid for one more day, giggling on the other end of the line.

Forget your cell phone at a Christmas party just once, and Williams is sure to have some fun with it.

Offer him the chance to live in a dorm room and carry a backpack across the University of Texas campus for one more year, and he’ll do it.

Give Williams a reason to put on a silly hat and sit in the student section, bouncing around like a frat boy watching Longhorns basketball, and he’ll do that, too.

Roy Williams ‘ college days are dwindling. Here’s to a gifted wide receiver who reminded us that it doesn’t always have to be about big games and big money.

Williams won’t say goodbye to the Longhorns with a national championship ring on his finger or a Heisman Trophy for the school. He won’t even be in a Bowl Championship Series game or among those boasting of winning a conference championship.

But for all the ultimate prizes Williams did not quite win in his senior season, he did one thing better than all the rest. He stayed true to his heart and had the time of his life. Here’s to a guy who played the college game instead of allowing it to play him.

A year ago, many of us warned of all the things that could have gone wrong in his senior season of football. But things didn’t go sour, mostly because Williams was in the best shape of his life and a notch above almost any player he faced.

Many wondered how he could spurn sure millions and risk career-threatening injury, especially in the weeks after Miami tailback Willis McGahee’s career was dealt a crippling blow. But Williams knew the money would be there, and he went out and made sure of it with another stellar year.

More than anything, many talked of Williams having nothing left to prove. But he proved something anyway. You don’t always have to declare early to feel enriched.

That’s why we should take a good look at Williams in the Longhorns’ Holiday Bowl game against Washington State on Tuesday. He might be among the last of a vanishing breed, but isn’t it nice to know that fun still matters to some 21-year-old superstars in waiting?

Sure, today’s college game is anything but pure and all about the fun. It’s about high stakes, cutthroat competition, accountability, celebrity, agents hovering nearby, temptations calling from every direction and stars such as Williams grooming themselves for lucrative careers. All about the fun? All about the fun went out with the wishbone.

From the time recruiters first started tripping over themselves getting to Odessa, Williams knew this as well as anyone, but he never let it spoil his time at the Forty Acres.

He walks away from UT knowing he lived the collegiate life he dreamed about and never cheated himself out of the total college experience.

If you look at statistics and where NFL scouts rank Williams this year compared with last, it might be easy to consider his senior year a waste of time in terms of market value.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

He did take that one, last shot at a title and that long, last walk around the campus with a backpack strapped around one shoulder.

He did try to help the Longhorns get to the national title game, even sacrificing touches as the offense became more run-oriented. And he sat around a cafeteria table sharing stories with classmates.

He went to Dallas and tried to beat Oklahoma. He worked on his blocking and the little things that will make him an NFL star. And he lived the college life.

He had fun.

Today, some NFL personnel experts say Williams is roughly at the same place on the draft board as he was a year ago. There was nothing gained, nothing lost, except what would have been a huge 2003 salary.

But that’s money. Here’s to the young man who reminded us it’s not always about the money.

You can’t buy back an early year of your life after you’re done making millions.

And the Holiday Bowl is tonight, put on your orange. Who cares if it’s not a BCS bowl. Everyone knows how flawed the BCS is. All that matters is the Horns are playing, and they’re going to win!

-b