One of the biggest announcements of the 2005 season came in early January when tailback DeAngelo Williams announced to a large crowd of coaches, administrators and fans that he would "forgo his NFL career" to remain a Tiger for his senior season. With that announcement came a huge sigh of relief that the Tigers would once again be able to count on the speedy and powerful back to give Memphis the tough ground yards during the upcoming season. It also begins his campaign as a legitimate Heisman candidate leading into the 2005 campaign.
Named to several All-America teams last season, Williams was a key factor in the Tigers finishing the year with an 8-4 record and an appearance in the GMAC Bowl. It was the first time in school history that the Tigers would enjoy back-to-back bowl invitations. In his three seasons, Williams has rewritten the rushing section of the Tiger record book, and has received numerous honors.
A two-time Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year (04, 03), Williams also received recognition as a C-USA Player of the Week twice during the 2004 season. He ended the campaign as a finalist for the Maxwell Award, the Doak Walker Award, the Hossman Trophy and the John Wooden Cup. He also was named an all-American by Pro Football Weekly (first-team), the Associated Press (third-team), and SI.com (second team), and was tabbed as a member of the Conference USA All-Decade Team. Prior to the start of the season, CBSSportsline named Williams No. 45 among the 50 most relevant people in college football. CollegeSportsReport.com named Williams a first-team selection on their All-Junior Offense and a second-team pick for their All-America Offense.
Williams finished his junior campaign with 1,948 rushing yards on 313 attempts, both of which led C-USA and are school records. He also led the nation in rushing touchdowns with 22. Nationally, he was second in scoring (138 points) and all-purpose yards (2,230 yards), and third in rushing. Including the GMAC Bowl, during which he sustained a broken leg and left the game in the third quarter, Williams rushed for more than 100 yards in 10 of the 12 games. He also totaled more than 200 yards in three of the last five games, and is the only U of M player in school history to rush for multiple 200-yard games. In the fifth game of the season, against Houston, he broke the single game school record for rushing yards in a game with 262 against the Cougars. The previous record was 260 yards set by Paul Gowen against Tulsa in 1969. In that Houston game, Williams also became the all-time leading rusher at the U of M. He came back in the final regular season game against USF and set an even higher single game standard with 263 yards against the Bulls. In 2004, Williams also tied the single-game school record for touchdowns after scoring four TDs against Chattanooga, Houston and East Carolina. He recorded the longest play from scrimmage in '04 with a 75-yard touchdown run against Southern Miss.
In only three seasons, Williams owns career records for 100-yard games (24), rushing yards (4,062), attempts (659), touchdowns scored (41) and all-purpose yards (5,498). Williams enters the 2005 season primed to become Conference USA's all-time leading rusher. He will need just 303 yards to surpass former Tulane back Mewelde Moore, who totaled 4,364 yards from 2000-03. The Wynne, Ark., native is currently tied for the all-time C-USA lead in rushing touchdowns with 37, and is third all-time in the league in all-purpose yards. He holds the conference record in career touchdowns with 41.
Though the football season ended following the GMAC Bowl on Dec. 22, the accolades continued for Williams. He was flown to Los Angeles in January as a finalist for the John Wooden Cup, and also traveled to Columbus, Ohio, where he was named as an outstanding collegiate running back and a Player to Watch for 2005 by the Touchdown Club of Columbus. Most recently, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame honored Williams as the Male Amateur Athlete of the Year, and the Tennessee Sports Writers Association will present him their Player of the Year Award in June.