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Football: Williams leaves Southern Miss

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By Ben Baby

A week before J.T. Williams signed his letter of intent to play at Southern Mississippi, the Ryan defensive tackle’s college plans were still murky.

A little more than six months later, Williams’ journey to play major-college football has started over.

Williams voluntarily left the Golden Eagles and is no longer with the Conference USA program, Williams and a spokesman for the Southern Miss athletic department said.

The former Ryan standout and first-team All-District 5-5A defensive selection said that when he arrived in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in the summer for classes and workouts, he did not realize the depth at the position.

Williams said he sat down with the Southern Miss coaching staff and did not want to redshirt this season, which would have allowed him to keep a year of eligibility while remaining with the program.

“I got my education paid for and everything,” Williams said, “but I got it for football, and I love to play football. I just didn’t want to be a student there. It was weird watching people play, on the bench. I’m just not that kind of player. I want to play.”

The plan for Williams is to attend Trinity Valley Community College with former Ryan teammates Paul Hunter and Alex Funches. All three graduated this spring.

Williams said he does not expect Southern Miss to release him from his scholarship and he will try to transfer to a larger school closer to home after the year is over.

Williams mentioned North Texas and Houston as places he would like to go. Those schools, in addition to Missouri, recruited him. Williams was close to joining Jordan Williams, his older brother and a former Ryan offensive lineman, at Missouri but did not give his oral commitment during the 2013 season.

In the week leading up to national signing day in February, Southern Miss, Massachusetts and Eastern Illinois joined Houston Baptist with scholarship offers for J.T. Williams. Williams eventually chose Southern Miss, following a year in which he posted 67 tackles, nine tackles for loss, five sacks and two forced fumbles.

Eric Lokey spoke to Williams on the phone before the freshman made his decision to leave Southern Miss. Lokey was the Ryan defensive line coach and recently was named the Denton school district’s assistant athletic director.

Lokey said one of the biggest factors in Williams’ departure from Southern Miss was his longing to return home. Lokey said he sensed Williams was getting a little homesick and encouraged his former lineman to stick it out and honor his commitment to the Golden Eagles.

“They don’t know anybody there and they get homesick,” Lokey said. “It’s got to be a good fit for them to stick it out. They need to realize that before they sign that scholarship.”

Things are far from over for Williams. If he can find a way to latch on at Trinity Valley and make an impact, he could find himself playing major-college football again.

“I’ve been looking forward to it,” Williams said of starting over at Trinity Valley.

BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.