Willie’s last stand
Remember Willie Williams? A few years back, he looked like a lock to become sports-crime’s next great superstar — the worthy heir apparent to now-fading top performers such as Lawrence Phillips, Darryl Strawberry, and Mike Tyson. Everything was lined up for him to make it. A punishing linebacker talent out of South Florida who was considered one of the top 10 high-school-football players in the country two years ago, Williams was arrested 11 times before his high-school graduation. By his senior year, he was being fawned over by every major college program in the South, including Florida and Miami, despite being under permanent house arrest for felony burglary charges.
In fact, Williams was arrested almost every time he went outside in high school. He continually violated the terms of his house arrest, resulting in court appearances for such activities as giving a neighbor jumper cables, going to the pharmacy to buy aspirin, and taking too long disposing of the garbage. “I don’t have any major problems with Mr. Williams,” said his house-arrest officer at the time. “I just can’t get him to stay in his house.”
Each time Williams had to do anything other than take his court-allowed trips to school, he required special permission. He got a judge to allow him to go to his senior prom, which, in a rare show of restraint, he managed to attend without incident. He also got permission to go on a recruiting trip in Gainesville in 2004 and, amazingly, was arrested for three different offenses at three different times during that one visit. He was popped for hitting a man at a bar, for “hugging a girl against her will,” and for setting off fire extinguishers in the dormitory where he was staying. Williams ended up getting charged with a felony (for the fire-extinguisher deal) and two misdemeanors and eventually pleaded no contest, resulting in a year’s probation and community service for each offense.
Of course, with this extensive record, there was only one place for Williams: the University of Miami, which has a history of producing headline-generating linebackers. (Ray Lewis, anyone?) But even Miami felt a need to apologize in advance for Williams, and held a press conference after his signing in which university president Donna Shalala personally promised to kick his ass if he got into trouble.
Actually, Williams didn’t get into trouble at Miami, but he did have some trouble with the whole football thing. Once considered an unblockable force of nature, he couldn’t make the Miami starting line-up. So he transferred out to West Los Angeles College, a community college in Culver City that had been a stepping stone in the past for standouts such as Keyshawn Johnson and Warren Moon.
Williams left that school this past year and enrolled at Louisville. It was there that he scored his first arrest since high school: a weed bust following a “black dude playing music too loud” traffic stop. (Actually, there is a law against riding with the music too loud in Louisville.) Williams was caught cramming his stash into his mouth, which led to a charge of evidence tampering in addition to possession.
After the arrest, Louisville immediately dismissed Williams from the team. It’s not known what he’ll do now, but he may be out of chances.
You want $20 for what?
Ohio State had been pretty clean since the Maurice Clarett days — in fact, the football team hadn’t had an arrest since April 2006, when tackle Alex Boone was nailed for drunk driving. And Coach Jim Tressel hadn’t been publicly excoriated for running a halfway house in almost two years.
Until now. One of his quarterbacks, Antonio Henton, has broken the arrest-free streak with a bang — or at least, that’s what he was trying to do. This past week, Henton was charged with solicitation after he made a deal to screw an undercover police officer for the low, low price of $20.
If you’re wondering exactly how many men would be in jail if nailable police chicks went around from neighborhood to neighborhood offering sex for 20 bucks, you’re not alone. The ethics of that kind of sting are dicey enough at 100 bucks for a half-and-half — but to offer straight sex to a football player for $20 at 8:27 pm on a school night, that goes far beyond entrapment. It’s practically detention without charge.
Coach Tressel was moved by the incident, saying that “it affected me as I was continuing to watch film,” in a tone suggesting he was turned on. Then he suspended Henton indefinitely and did the requisite “I’m very disappointed in the behavior of my star player who won’t be out long if I can help it” deal. In fact, Henton has already returned to practice and will continue to train with the scout team until case is resolved.
Says Tressel: “I just think it’s the right thing to do.”
When he’s not googling “US RDA of weed” and “entrapment ethics,” Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone. He can be reached at M_Taibbi@yahoo.com.