Return of the Prodigal Son

After sampling the life of a pro, Mike Williams tries to come back to USC
After sampling the life of a pro, Mike Williams tries to come back to USC
June 13, 2004

Mike Williams and USC had a very messy divorce. After declaring
last February that he would try to crash the NFL draft as a
sophomore, Williams blasted his teammates for being unmotivated.
When coach Pete Carroll's staff reportedly told NFL teams that it
was Williams who had slacked off during the Trojans' 2003
co-national-championship season, Williams responded by saying
Carroll ran an "undisciplined" program. Such ugliness put both
sides in an awkward spot when on April 22 a Federal Court of
Appeals in New York City ruled against Ohio State sophomore
Maurice Clarett, upholding the NFL rule that says you must be out
of high school three years to be drafted. Last week, however,
Carroll declared peace in our time, saying the two had cleared
the air in Williams's hometown of Tampa when Carroll was there on
a recruiting trip in May. "Mike was being pulled in a hundred
different directions," says Carroll. "Whatever he said in the
heat of that moment is forgotten. We want to move forward." The
rapprochement is not surprising, since Williams has nowhere else
to play and Carroll gets back the nation's best wideout.

Or does he get him back? Williams now must mend fences with the
NCAA. After Clarett's initial court victory (a U.S. District
Court judge ruled in the running back's favor on Feb. 5),
Williams, thinking he was home free, hired an agent, Mike
Azzarelli. Then he did what many a likely first-rounder does:
spend his agent's money (reportedly more than $100,000). After
Clarett lost the next round, Williams cut ties with Azzarelli,
but to regain his amateur status he will likely have to repay
what he borrowed. Carroll says the matter will be settled with
the help of Williams's foster parents, Kathy McCurdy, a lawyer,
and her husband, Jack. Says Carroll, "It shouldn't be a problem."
The same can't be said of Williams's pursuit of a "progress to
degree waiver"--essentially a pardon from the NCAA for missing
school since the fall. Williams, whose petition is expected to be
filed soon, may argue that he was misled by the courts into
thinking he didn't need to stay in school due to the first
Clarett decision. "We can only hope the NCAA sees things our
way," says Carroll, "and helps out a kid who thought he was doing
the right thing."

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