FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Former Arkansas running back Rawleigh Williams III retired from football last May. The 2016 SEC regular- season rushing champ has remained close to the team, though.
Williams has taken on more of a coaching role with a goal of one day becoming general manager for an NFL franchise. His impact in his new role is already being noticed, and not just with the running backs.
Arkansas defensive end T.J. Smith is relying heavily on Williams to guide him through his first season as a starter. Smith, a sophomore, is roommates with Williams. When he became nervous ahead of his first career start last Thursday, Smith knew exactly where to turn.
“[Rawleigh] kind of got the nervous feeling out of me and made me feel a lot more confident,” Smith told reporters Tuesday.
“He was just like, ‘You’re here, you’re prepared to be here.’ That gave me a lot of confidence. Where I’m at now is kind of where he was at last year. He gives me a lot of advice and that helps out a lot.”
Smith had 2 tackles in his debut as a starter, a 49-7 Hogs victory against Florida A&M. He also helped force a fumble that resulted in a defensive touchdown.
The Moultrie, Ga., native credits Williams with helping him make a transition from hardly playing in 2016 to a starter this season. The two remained in regular contact this offseason despite Williams spending much of the summer as an intern for the Dallas Cowboys.
“He stayed mentally putting me in the right place, telling me things I need to do,” Smith said. “That helped me out a lot.”
Smith and the Razorbacks will have their first difficult test of the season this Saturday against TCU inside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. CT (3:30 p.m. ET) on CBS.
“I think it’ll be a competitive matchup,” Smith said. “We’re going to fire all our bullets and their going to fire all theirs. Whoever goes down, that’s the loser.”
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