Catch a falling star

Willie Williams and Charles Rogers prove that "can't miss" prospects sometimes do
By MATT TAIBBI  |  September 23, 2009

GOOD MOVES: Former University of Miami linebacker Willie Williams had 12 arrests before he even enrolled in college. Then he quit and stole a bunch of electronics.

There was a time, not long ago, when two things were true. The first was that the University of Miami was a perennial college-football powerhouse, a virtual breeding ground of All-Pro NFL talent that had status so above and beyond that of other schools that it wasn't even totally ridiculous when alums like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed called their alma mater "The U" on Monday Night Football, expecting audiences to know what that meant.

The second was that Willie Williams was going to be the next big thing among college-football linebackers, the next generation in the long line of bone-crunching Miami standouts that included Lewis, Dan Morgan, and D.J. Williams. Recruited from Carol City High School in the Miami area to be The U's next middle linebacker, Williams was also going to be the next big thing in another arena: sports arrests. He entered his college career as the likely inheritor of the throne that had been fought over in decades past by the likes of J.R. Rider, Lawrence Phillips, Darryl Strawberry, and Mike Tyson.

Williams's early record — 12 arrests as a minor — was astounding. In one famous incident, he was on a recruiting trip to the University of Florida when he got arrested twice, once for hugging a female student against her will and another time for setting off fire extinguishers in a dorm hallway (the actual charge, surely unique in the annals of major sports, was "committing malicious harm to a fire extinguisher"). Williams also set recruiting-violation history by publishing accounts of the lobster dinners and private-jet flights he got while on college visits in a diary he wrote for the Miami Herald. He had to go to a judge to ask permission to attend his senior prom, having by that time been confined to house arrest following a burglary case.

Williams nonetheless made it to Miami. At college, he continued his string of good judgment calls, ultimately quitting the team because he was unhappy with his playing time. He tried several schools, including West Los Angeles Community College, Louisville, and Glenville State College, but ended up at little Union College in Kentucky. In the meantime, he racked up a few more arrests, one for weed and another for tampering with evidence. In the weed case, hilariously, when pulled over by police, he tried to eat his stash.

Williams is now 24; his NFL hopes are basically gone (although he reportedly was training for a tryout); and he's living in Lawrenceville, Georgia, where he made some friends in his neighborhood. Apparently, those friends had some stuff Willie liked, because he allegedly went into their house and helped himself. The haul included a Nintendo Wii, an Xbox 360, a Smartphone, a digital camera, a desktop computer, a laptop computer, several hundred dollars in cash, some jewelry, and four iPods. He was arrested on burglary and reckless-conduct charges.

Give Williams 32 points, and wish him luck. Something tells us the criminal justice system hasn't heard the last of Willie — though the sports world probably has.

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