LAWRENCE — The end always comes, one way or another. This is something you hear football players say. But for a few moments last February, Josh Williams lived it.
After four years as a defensive end at Nebraska, Williams was dismissed from the program in February for an undisclosed violation of team rules. For a few days, he was stuck in a directionless limbo, unsure of what would come next.
“Because of the way things ended at Nebraska,” Williams says now, “I didn’t know what my next step would be.”
The answer came when he got a call from Kansas. He had visited Lawrence while being recruited initially. He was a high school teammate of KU receiver D.J. Beshears. And he had a relationship with KU defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt, who had helped recruit him to Nebraska.
So when KU coach Charlie Weis called and spelled out the situation, he knew he was headed to Kansas. And by taking advantage of the NCAA’s graduate transfer exception, Williams would have a chance to get on the field right away.
“Seeing where they wanted to go,” Williams says, “I really wanted to be a part of that.”
And more than anything, Williams just wanted a chance to play, one more chance to prove himself to any pro team that might be watching. Playing is what he’d always done. When he was in high school in Denton, Texas, Williams starred on the football field while his older brother, LaDarien Henderson, served in the Army and spent a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Henderson had played high school football as well before joining the Army. And whatever was next for Williams in the world outside football, he wanted to make sure he put it off as long as possible.
“It was pretty tough,” Williams says of his brother’s time overseas. “Because at that time, it was in the heat of the moment. We didn’t know what was going on.”
Weis said he did his own homework on Williams when the Jayhawks began recruiting him. When everything checked out, he laid out a simple agreement for what Williams had to do while in Lawrence.
In his KU debut last week against South Dakota State, Williams had three tackles and forced and recovered a fumble on the same play in the first half. His presence on the defensive line, opposite incumbent defensive captain Toben Opurum, has given the Jayhawks two capable pass rushers.
“Our biggest thing in practice is: ‘Hey, let’s meet each other at the quarterback,’” Williams says.
For Williams, his final season of college football is going fast. On Saturday, he’ll take the field against Rice for game two at Memorial Stadium. And if you listen to Williams, that’s the best part of this one-year stop in Lawrence: He’s still playing.
His name is still atop the depth chart. And he doesn’t have to worry about much else.
“Coming in, I didn’t know how it would go, honestly,” Williams says. “Coming into a new place, and I’m a fifth-year guy, and these guys have been here. But I felt like we jelled pretty quick. Because we all wanted the same thing. We had all the same goal in mind. We all wanted to go out and win.”
Juco transfer changes plan — Defensive lineman Ty McKinney, a highly touted junior college signee, has elected to delay his arrival to Kansas until January, Weis announced Thursday.
Weis had previously said that McKinney would arrive on campus today after completing his final junior college course. McKinney, 6 feet 3 and 310 pounds, had played two seasons at Trinity Valley Community College in Texas.
“After discussing this matter with Ty McKinney, he has decided to wait until January to enroll at KU,” Weis said. “(Friday) he will take his last final exam and believes that any attempt to catch up academically at KU would be futile.”
McKinney will still have two years of eligibility left when he arrives on campus, beginning in 2013. McKinney had four sacks and 27 tackles at Trinity Valley in 2011.