Tahlequah Daily Press

NSU Sports

July 10, 2013

Rusty or ready?

Northeastern State wide receiver Cruz Williams returns to football after sitting out for two-plus years following his transfer from Louisiana Tech.

Kendra Barron approached Cruz Williams and broke some news to him.

“She came in and was like, ‘yeah, our lease is up, so we have to adjust,’” said Williams, who recalled having that conversation when he and Barron — his fiancé — moved from Pleasant View Apartments.

“Our lease was up in a day, and the next thing we know we went looking and found this duplex.”

Williams and Barron discovered their new dwelling a hop, skip and a jump away from Doc Wadley Stadium.

“I’m probably 10 feet from the stadium,” Williams said. “Her and I both.”

So now when Williams starts a new day, the first thing he lays eyes on is Northeastern State’s football complex.

“I look out my door and I see the track, I see the bubble,” Williams said. “...It’s very addicting, looking out the window seeing the bubble.”

For most people, bouncing from place to place might be a bit chaotic. Not Williams, though. That’s been the story on his college football life — to this point.

“It’s mind-blowing to me,” said Williams, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound wide receiver who transferred to NSU from Louisiana Tech. “...Everything is on (God’s) timing.”

Williams — who caught nine passes for 142 yards during NSU’s spring game in 2012 — was slated to become a primary target in the RiverHawks’ passing game last fall. However, due to NCAA transfer regulations, Williams was forced to sit out yet another year of football.

“The NCAA has these rules and regulations when you transfer, and they are changing constantly,” Williams said. “It’s just something I had to deal with, and it was my decision to stay here, because back home there is nothing for me.”

The Little Rock, Ark., native is closing in on his return to football. He has been cleared to play for the RiverHawks when they begin their 2013 season at Pittsburg State on Sept. 7.

“We were excited about him a year ago,” NSU head coach Kenny Evans said. “He will finally get his chance on the field in the fall.”

Evans has his trepidations, though.

“He is rusty,” Evans said of Williams. “The down side is when you don’t play, it takes some of the edge off of you. It’ll take him a little bit to turn into the player we want him to be.

“Cruz has two years left to play and hopefully he makes the most of them.”

Desperately wanting to play football again, Williams said watching games was brutal last year.

“It was definitely tough,” he said. “I felt it. But even though I was mad and I was confused on what was happening, it really helped me out because I’m 10 times stronger than I was this time last year.”

Williams, who is now 24 years old, enters the 2013 season as an oddity. He’s played in two NSU spring games but not one regular season game. At this point, he’s a spring game veteran.

“At this point I am, man,” Williams chuckled. “Now everybody is waiting on Cruz to see what he can do. Not only that, but I’m excited about Cruz and what I can do.”

During summer workouts, one member of NSU’s coaching staff has been getting Williams psyched up for the season opener at southeast Kansas.

“Being able to sit out two and a half years and now getting a chance to play — and open up at Pitt State — the way (NSU coach John Murray) talks about it,” Williams said, “it just gives me chills. I can only imagine that bus ride there. I’m going to be geeked up and ready to go.”

Not only will Williams get to return to the football field, but he will also be able to quiet the critics who thought his career was toast.

“A lot of people done gave up and forgot about me,” Williams said. “But people don’t know that I’m still hungry and I’m still chasing my dream.”

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