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Williams will have several hurdles to clear

6/2/2004 - USC Trojans

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.