Arkansas Razorbacks running back Rawleigh Williams III has announced his retirement from football after suffering a second neck injury during the Hogs’ spring game on Saturday, April 29. Williams rushed for 1,360 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, and he finished as the SEC’s leading rusher for the 2016 regular season.
In a retirement letter written by Williams himself, he describes the moment during the spring game that the injury occurred — and the subsequent decision that came later that he was hanging it up for good.
This outside zone run to the left would be my last.
Not again. I remembered the feeling. It didn’t last as long so I wasn’t as nervous, but I knew something was wrong. I knew that it was similar enough to the last time.
Everyone got to me quickly. When they tested my hand strength I could squeeze, but it was really weak and I could barely feel it. I was trying to calm everyone else down. I remember thinking and then saying “Everything is coming back to me. I can feel my body. Let me get up please.”
I’ve seen the replay. I saw a normal hit. That scared me. It shows me it doesn’t take a big hit at this point. Any little thing can trigger it. I also saw the reaction of my mom and my sister. That broke my heart. I can’t do this anymore. I want to be able to walk.
The decision to not return after his latest injury didn’t come right away. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Williams and his family were meeting with the University of Arkansas, the Fayetteville medical team, and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema last week to “go over his latest medical tests and discuss his future.”
Williams sustained his first scary injury, a a ruptured disc in the upper part of his neck that required surgery, in Arkansas’ game against Auburn in 2015. He briefly lost feeling in his extremities, and had to be carted off the field.
Nola.com described the second injury from the spring game as one that happened with little contact from a defender.
The alarming part of Williams' latest injury, referred as a "stinger" by Arkansas medical personnel, occurred with hardly any contact.
On a non-tackling run play at left tackle, Williams made "thud" contact with defensive end McTelvin Agim. Williams fell to the turf and according to Agim said, "I can't move."
Williams later said he had the feeling back in all of his extremities while he was on the turf and added he was "embarrassed" at not being allowed to jump to his feet. Instead, he had his jersey cut off by medical personnel and was carted off the field to a waiting ambulance.
As far as what Williams’ future holds, in his letter he alludes to the fact that he wants to continue a career in football in some capacity.
“Don’t work to just be the guy in the jersey on Sundays. Work to be the guy in the nice suit that’s in the suite of the stadium making all the decisions.”… That is now my goal. To be the guy in the nice suit in the suite. To do whatever I have to do to gain more knowledge about the game in all ways. Just like I did when I was a player.
Best of luck to Williams in his upcoming endeavors, whatever they may be.