Williams will have several hurdles to clear

Updated: June 2, 2004, 6:23 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Kept out of the NFL draft by the courts, wide receiver Mike Williams will ask the NCAA to let him return to college football.

Williams said he is leaving agent Mike Azzarelli and has sent Southern California paperwork to file with the NCAA that could make him eligible to play for the Trojans in the fall.

"There's really not a football player on any level hungrier than I am to play ball," Williams told KMPC-AM in Los Angeles.

The All-America sophomore said he was disappointed to be barred from the draft and left open the possibility of trying to enter the NFL again if the NCAA doesn't accept his request.

"If it doesn't work out, we'll pursue other angles," he said.

Attempts to contact Williams by The Associated Press were unsuccessful.

Williams had his career at USC thrown into limbo following a court ruling last month that blocked him from entering the NFL draft.

The university is responsible for reviewing Williams' request and submitting it to the NCAA. The NCAA's student-athlete reinstatement staff usually makes a decision within days, but has not yet received the required paperwork, said NCAA spokeswoman Kay Hawes.

Azzarelli is now working to get Williams back into college.

"We will do everything imaginable within our power to do what can be done, what needs to be done, to get the NCAA to reinstate him," Azzarelli said. "If that doesn't work out, he's probably got a much stronger case against the NFL."

Azzarelli claims the NFL encouraged Williams to enter the draft and said a rejection of his application for NCAA reinstatement could bolster a possible lawsuit against the league, if needed. He added that Williams would aim for the league's supplemental draft.

Williams, who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting, followed Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett in declaring his eligibility after a U.S. district judge ruled that younger players may enter the draft.

But that ruling was stayed, and the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals in New York City decided May 24 that the NFL has the right to determine when players can enter the league. NFL rules bar players until they are three years out of high school, and Clarett and Williams each have been out of high school for just two years.

Both would be eligible for the 2005 NFL draft.

Williams, who left USC shortly after the spring semester began, faces a series of hurdles to regain his eligibility. He must cancel his contract with Azzarelli and USC must submit an academic progress waiver and petition the NCAA for his reinstatement.

The final decision would be up to the NCAA.

Williams said the request was "not a slam dunk" and acknowledged that he must make several changes to meet eligibility requirements.

"I'm not going to walk in the door scot-free and just start playing football," Williams said. "There's some conditions I have to meet."

The case could set a precedent, Tim Tessalone, USC's sports information director, said.

"We believe the NCAA will look at the situation and we hope that they'll look out for the welfare of the student-athlete," he said.

Trojans coach Pete Carroll appeared after Williams on KMPC.

"It's been a tough lesson for him," said Carroll, who added he he'd welcome Williams back to the team.

"He brings a lot to the program, he brings a lot to college football, and hopefully this will be an opportunity for him to return," Carroll said.

Carroll did not immediately return messages left at his office by the AP.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE