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The Hokies star cornerback has no regrets over passing up the NFL for his senior season.
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By JIM McCONNELL
BLACKSBURG--Jimmy Williams was as good as gone.
As the final seconds ticked off the Superdome scoreboard, sealing Virginia Tech's loss to Auburn in the 2005 Sugar Bowl, almost everyone figured Williams had just played his last down as a Hokie.
Over the past few months, the junior from Hampton had raced up NFL draft boards spanning the Internet. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper even suggested that Williams could be the first cornerback selected--a prediction that, if fulfilled, would mean a signing bonus in the neighborhood of $10 million.
The only guy with the gall to turn up his nose at that kind of jack was Matt Leinart, and he was a Heisman Trophy-winning, movie-star handsome quarterback living every guy's fantasy in the shadow of the Hollywood hills.
Leinart could be excused for not wanting to leave the sand and sun of SoCal. But Blacksburg, for all of its quaint country charm, will never be confused with Los Angeles.
Given the opportunity to become an instant millionaire and ditch the tedious demands of a Division I student-athlete, Williams simply had to turn pro.
In a word: No.
Williams had seen former teammates Kevin Jones and DeAngelo Hall, the two brightest stars on Virginia Tech's talent-laden 2003 squad, jump ship for the NFL after the Hokies collapsed down the stretch of what became a disappointing 8-5 season.
He had also watched guys like Bryan Randall and Eric Green, both of whom stuck around for their senior seasons and became leaders for Tech's 2004 ACC championship team.
Williams wanted his Virginia Tech legacy to look more like Randall's than Hall's. He wanted to be remembered for his leadership, not his oft-publicized penchant for trash talking.
So Williams decided last spring to return for his senior season, and instantly became the sage voice of experience in a Hokies secondary that lost its other three starters to graduation.
"Jimmy has grown up tremendously, probably as much as any young man I've ever been around," Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. "Four years ago we didn't see eye-to-eye very often, but he's matured as a person and as a player. He came back for all the right reasons."