LINCOLN, Neb. — For Nebraska’s first three games, wide receivers coach Keith Williams watched the Huskers alone on a TV in his office.
Game on. Door locked. The shake of Memorial Stadium rattling his pens.
“Not good,” Williams said of those games, unable to coach. “It was a stressful situation but I brought it on myself so you move forward and try and make it right.”
After being arrested in connection with a DUI in August for the third time and then serving a four-game suspension, Williams is now fully back with the team.
Williams pleaded not guilty in Lancaster County Court in August to one count of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol and pleaded not guilty to one count of careless driving.
Williams was arrested around 2 a.m. on Aug. 14 after he allegedly hit the back of an Uber car. The two parties exchanged information and the Uber driver called the police and told them that Williams appeared to be drunk.
Nebraska coach Mike Riley suspended Williams for two weeks without pay, and Williams also was not allowed to coach in the first four games.
Riley called it the “most significant” penalty he’s ever seen for an assistant coach.
Some fans called for Williams’ firing. Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst said Williams had a “very small margin of error” going forward. An ESPN columnist wrote the punishment wasn’t harsh enough.
Williams, who has a date in Lancaster County Court on Oct. 24, said after practice on Wednesday he knows how lucky he is. And he’s ready to get back to coaching, and to trying to fix the mess he created.
“You try not to dwell on the obvious negative energy,” Williams said “At that point you want to just fix it and come up with a plan to move ahead.”
Riley stands by his decision to keep Williams on staff, and said this week he’s been pleased with the way Williams has handled the past few weeks.
“I think he’s handled it exactly as we would’ve wanted him to,” Riley said. “The suspension part, that might have been the hardest, when he wasn’t even here. For the receivers, for everybody.”
When Williams returned to the team, he said he told his receivers the same thing he said in his apology statement a few days after his arrest.
You’re responsible for your actions. All of them. No matter what. And you own up to them.
Since his arrest in August, and since the first time they met after his arrest, Williams said there has been no loss of trust or love between him and his receivers.
“No, no, no trust issues,” Williams said. “Everybody’s been real supportive.”
He said every single one of his receivers talked to him at some point the past few weeks to tell him they had his back.
“Just kind of the general, ‘Coach, we’re with you, let’s just go,’ ” Williams said.
The transition to normalcy was pretty quick, he said.
And the receivers noticed. Junior WR De’Mornay Pierson-El said a few weeks ago Williams was harsh in the first film session. Maybe harsher than usual. When Williams was allowed back to practice a few weeks ago, senior WR Jordan Westerkamp said there was a jolt of energy to the offense.
“It will be huge,” Westerkamp said Monday of Williams’ return to game-day coaching.
There really isn’t anything overly significant about his return to the sidelines, Williams said. Graduate assistant Hardie Buck, who helped coach the wide receivers in his absence, did a great job, Williams said.
Nebraska offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf said he’ll enjoy having another set of eyes on the field, another sounding board for the offense.
But just being back on the field, and not locked up in his office, that’s something Williams has been looking forward to for some time time now.
“I’m real appreciative to have a chance to still be here,” Williams said.
The whole ordeal was a hard situation, Riley said on Monday, but now it’s time to start moving forward.
“I think we’ve been through the consequences of that, so we’re excited to have him back now, full-fledged into the practices, the games and the whole part,” Riley said. “It’ll be real good for the Huskers to have him back.”