Running back Joe Williams holds Utah’s all-time record for rushing yards in a game, with a huge 2016 day against UCLA that powered a 52-45 win. He went on to be picked by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL draft.
He finished that day with 332 yards on the ground ... weeks after stepping away from the game.
Joe Williams heard his father’s screams from the next room as his sister lay in death’s grip. But Williams felt paralyzed, strapped down to his bed by shock and emotions.
Nearly a decade later, through the start of a 2016 season in which he emerged as one of the most productive and puzzling running backs in college football, Williams was still having flashbacks – to helping 7-year-old Kylee when she fell out of bed earlier that night, to carrying her to the bathroom, to riding to the hospital where she was pronounced dead of an undiagnosed heart problem.
“That’s where the guilt comes in,” Williams told USA TODAY Sports recently. “Because maybe if I had got out of my bed and maybe I’d held her or she knew I was there, maybe she would’ve woken up. That was the biggest reason of why I blame myself.”
Chantel Jennings explains the rest:
Williams left the team in September because his body was feeling worn out, but after a slew of running back injuries, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham asked his players whether they would be in favor of inviting Williams back to the team. After the team agreed, Whittingham approached Williams.
The Utes had been plagued by injuries at running back. From a couple weeks earlier:
Armand Shyne is out for the year after tearing his ACL against Arizona. Zack Moss and Troy McCormick were injured against Cal. Even walk-on Jordan Howard was hurt in the closing minutes of the Wildcats game. With four injured running backs, it seemed like a natural response for Utah to ask Williams to come back and he would've needed to be pretty committed to staying away.
Williams’ incredible story now continues in the NFL.