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Oct. 28, 2006

by Kevin McHale
Student Assistant, UVa Athletics Media Relations

The Virginia football program has benefited from a strong tradition of receiving options over the last five years. Coupled with the services of talented quarterbacks such as Matt Schaub and Marques Hagans, the UVa receiving corps contributed invaluable offensive strength to the early years under head coach Al Groh. While many Cavaliers have advanced to the NFL, the continued trend of reliable hands on offense looked promising for wide receiver Deyon Williams.

In 2005, the torch was officially passed. With Heath Miller’s departure to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cavalier passing game looked for a new primary target. Williams answered the call.

It seemed almost destiny that Williams would emerge as a viable threat against opposing defenses. His first career catch in an UVa uniform resulted in a 35-yard touchdown pass from Hagans in a win over Western Michigan.

Over the ensuing two seasons, his blend of size and speed – Williams was a star sprinter on the track as well as on the football field in high school – developed properly to make him one of the top receivers in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He captured All-ACC honorable mention distinction after snagging a team-high 58 catches and seven touchdowns in 2005.

Williams’ improvements and development over his junior year provided hope for the future of Virginia’s offensive strength, which would go on to graduate many instrumental players after the team’s victory at the Music City Bowl.

In August, however, anxious anticipation of the coming season’s prospects was met with devastating news from the Cavalier training camp. On August 8, Groh announced that Williams would be out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his right foot that would require him to undergo surgery to repair the damaged bone. Groh indicated that Williams looked great coming into camp after a summer of focusing on fine-tuning every aspect of his game, including blocking.

“Deyon showed tremendous focus through the spring, through the summer,” Groh said. “He’s been every intent on working his game in all aspects like that. Obviously, he’s a player that has long-range aspirations, and he understands to accomplish that, it’s about a lot more than catches.”

During “Meet the Team” Day on August 17, Williams said he would be out an undeterminable amount of time with the injury. The stress fracture found in Williams’ foot is a common injury for wide receivers, due to the high impact nature of the position.

“It’s just how I go on about the rehab and how strong I come back,” Williams said. “I do all the stuff a good wide receiver should do while he can’t be out there running.”

He described his continued, regular routine of catching 200 balls a day, lifting, and watching film. Additionally, Williams proved reliable in serving his duties as a team captain.

“He’s one of the people that provide the leadership for the offense,” quarterback Jameel Sewell said.

With NFL aspirations, and the potential to break onto the list of all-time UVa receiving leaders, his injury came not only at an inopportune time for the Cavalier offense, but for himself, as well. Regardless, his focus and concern was not on his personal setbacks, but on how the team would respond to the challenges set forth by his injury.

“Deyon’s attitude is ‘Don’t feel sorry for me’,” Groh said. “That’s what he told the players and ‘Let’s get going’ so that’s what we’re doingAlthough Williams’ absence in the first four games of the 2006 season left room for the emergence of freshman Kevin Ogletree as another significant threat at wide receiver, offensive productivity was certainly not the same without him.

Williams returned to action at Duke and East Carolina. Weekly-scheduled x-rays confirmed that he was ready to continue the season.”When he was missing, it was quiet at practice,” Sewell said. “Once he came back, he made it known he’s back, and he’s ready to do whatever it is he can do to help this team win. He’s doing that so far.”

Still early in his return, he has not been fully incorporated in to the offensive scheme, but has nevertheless made his presence felt. Williams caught three passes for 38 yards and scored a touchdown on a trick play against East Carolina. With hope, he will continue his steady return to form, which would no doubt help the Cavaliers pull together a successful conclusion to the 2006 season.

“His energy level and his passion for the game is so high, it brings everyone else up,” said fellow captain Marcus Hamilton. “He’s out there flying around, talking, yelling and screaming, picking all the players up no matter what happens out there. It’s just exciting to have him back, and we’re glad he’s back.”

If Williams’ ability to overcome the adversity of a serious injury in just five weeks is any indication, then opposing ACC defenses will find themselves hard-pressed to contain him.

1st and 10 With Deyon Williams
Most embarrassing artist on my iPod:
Favorite class at UVa: Anthropology 301
Most prized possession: my dog B.J.
Favorite place on the Corner: Littlejohn’s
Favorite team to play on a video game: Dallas Cowboys
The extreme activity I’d like to try: skydiving
My favorite website:
Best Christmas present as a kid: motor truck
The first thing I’ll buy with my first paycheck: another dog
Favorite thing about UVa football: our uniforms
Favorite junk food: cinnamon buns
The place I want to visit: Albuquerque, New Mexico

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