Hog Calls:

Nothing but respect for Rawleigh

By: Nate Allen
Published: Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Arkansas sophomore running back Rawleigh Williams carries against Alcorn State on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, during the third quarter at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
Photo by Jason Ivester
Arkansas sophomore running back Rawleigh Williams carries against Alcorn State on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016, during the third quarter at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

FAYETTEVILLE -- It was fun watching Rawleigh Williams run.

It will be unanimously Arkansas heartfelt watching him walk. Not just eventually walking in a University of Arkansas, Fayetteville commencement as a finance major, but just walking period. Simply walking after a second briefly paralyzing neck injury pales the comeback accolades the Razorbacks running back received leading the SEC in 2016 regular-season rushing after after breaking his neck seven games into the 2015 football campaign.

It brings a statewide sign of appreciated relief knowing the ever smiling Razorback from Dallas won't tempt football fate a third time.

Williams announced Monday on the Razorbacks' website that his active football days are over.

First during the Oct. 24, 2015, Auburn game and then during Arkansas' April 29 final spring practice of 2017, Williams was carted off the field strapped to medical apparatus and directly dispatched to an ambulance after being briefly unable to move.

It had to be Williams' call to make it official. But the April 29 reaction of Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema signaled the coach's apprehension even off the initial word that Williams had just suffered a "stinger," football slang for a painful but usually not severe neurological injury to the neck or shoulder.

"I love Rawleigh Williams walking and talking and doing everything else," Bielema said immediately after that April 29 practice. "We'll evaluate what the medical people tell us then we'll have a conversation together and do what's right for Rawleigh."

There was considerable debate the first time when Williams, medically cleared after extensive evaluations and second opinions, not only returned from that 2015 delicate surgery to practice in full pads in August, then net 1,316 yards rushing in Arkansas' 12 regular-season games.

A second time seeing his family horrified apparently settled this issue even as Williams soon walked away from the April 29 injury.

"I really don't have a choice," Williams posted Monday. "I've dodged the bullet twice. The first thing I thought when it all happened [again] was the reaction of my mom, dad, sister and brother. I didn't want them to go through this all over again."

That goes for his Razorbacks teammates, too.

Those of us in the media covering the Razorbacks glimpsed enough interaction to know that Rawleigh Williams, ever cheerful and ever unpretentious, is loved and respected by his teammates. And he's respected boundlessly.

"Rawleigh is a guy that every team in college football wishes they could have on their team," senior quarterback Austin Allen said. "When your best is also the one who treats others with respect, is the hardest working and one of the best in the classroom, you know that guy is special. That will be Rawleigh's lasting legacy."

That legacy always runs with these Razorbacks even as Rawleigh must walk away from playing in their games.

Sports on 05/10/2017

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