Reggie Williams runs away from cornerbacks, safeties and linebackers, but he doesn't run away from conflict. Two years ago, at a meeting to introduce freshmen recruits on the first night of preseason training camp, Williams told his new teammates he considered himself the best receiver in the room. That lack of humility earned him a visit from a few clippers-wielding upperclassmen, who left him with half his head shaved. "Maybe I got off on the wrong foot," Williams says.
He hasn't made a misstep since. With 2,429 receiving yards, the best two-year total in Pac-10 history, Williams has won the right to call himself the best pass catcher in the room, the conference and perhaps the nation. He and prolific passer Cody Pickett (4,458 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2002) are big reasons that the Huskies' offense is expected to travel mainly by air.
The only hang-up was waiting to see who their pilot would be. In June coach Rick Neuheisel was removed from his post by athletic director Barbara Hedges for participating in a high-stakes NCAA basketball tournament pool, and offensive coordinator Keith Gilbertson was designated the "supervisor" of the program pending resolution of the issue. Neuheisel appealed Hedges's decision and met with university and NCAA officials, but his firing was upheld, and on July 29 Gilbertson was named head coach. " Coach Neuheisel told us that, regardless of whether he's here or not, we have to keep fighting for a national championship," says Williams, "and that's what we're going to do. We're thinking big."
Obviously Williams talks big, too. "Self-confidence has never been a problem for Reggie," says Gilbertson. Fortunately for Williams, he has the talent to back his smack. With his size (6'4", 225 pounds) and strength, he routinely outjumps defenders for the ball and is a fine blocker. A former high school triple jump standout, he also has the speed to leave a secondary in his wake. Against San Jose State last season, Williams turned a 10-yard curl into an 89-yard touchdown. "I saw three or four guys who had an angle on me," he said after that game, "but I just reached into my back pocket and pulled my burners out."
Despite the distractions of the Neuheisel affair, the Huskies appear primed to return to the national elite. If that happens, rest assured that Williams will make sure you hear about it.
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