Utah running back Joe Williams had one of the more remarkable individual stories in college football in 2016. Two games into the year, Williams “retired” from football, citing the numerous physical and mental tolls he was dealing with personally. He returned four games later in the wake of depth issues to the Utes’ backfield to rush for 179 yards and a score in a win against Oregon State. In the next game, he dominated with 332 yards and four touchdowns vs. UCLA. He finished the year with just over 1,400 yards on the ground as one of the most prolific backs in the second half of the season.
But now we know the real reason why he briefly left Utah. Via USAToday.com, Williams’ hiatus was fueled by the death of his sister, Kylee, who succumbed to acute myocarditis 10 years ago after a misdiagnosis. The guilt Williams felt led to depression and issues with perscription drugs.
“People make it a big deal that I quit on the team. To me, it was necessary,” Williams said. “I was learning to come to grips with the fact that it wasn’t my fault. I’m 23 years old now, and I can’t blame myself for something that occurred 10 years ago, no matter how painful or traumatic it was. It would be bigger to honor her in a much more meaningful way.”
Williams was able to deal with his demons and return to the game to finish the season as one of the country’s best running backs. It would seem as though his love for football has been renewed.