Zook wants Williams to enjoy final ride at Illinois

August, 7, 2009
8/07/09
10:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

CHICAGO -- Juice Williams has been in the spotlight from the moment he set foot on Illinois' campus.

 
  Scott Boehm/Getty Images
  Juice Williams plans to make the most of his senior season in Champaign.

No current Big Ten quarterback has played more or endured as many highs and lows as the Fighting Illini senior.

Williams doesn't need to be told much heading into his final season at Illinois, so head coach Ron Zook keeps it simple. Zook's message to Juice this fall: Have fun.

"I want him to enjoy this year," Zook said, "because his freshman year, he didn't have any fun. ... He had not only the pressure of the Big Ten Conference and the pressure of winning. He felt like he owed it to the city of Chicago, the [Chicago] Public League, to be successful."

Williams' rawness showed with seemingly every throw in 2006. He completed just 39.5 percent of his passes as Illinois went 2-10.

The struggles took a mental toll, and it wasn't until midway through Williams' sophomore year, one that ended with a Rose Bowl appearance, that he started to have fun. Last season brought him both record-setting success -- total offense marks in three different stadiums, including Michigan Stadium -- and major disappointment as Illinois tumbled to 5-7.

With a monster senior season, Williams could break the Big Ten's career total offense mark. He has racked up 8,455 career yards, putting him within striking distance of Drew Brees (12,692).

But Zook would like to see a big smile from Williams along with the big numbers. Williams thinks it can be done.

"It'll be a lot easier," he said. "If you see me now on the field, I keep a smile on my face. I come to the sideline if something bad happens, I take criticism from the coaches and I continue to smile, still have fun. That's how I bounce back. That's how I make it through tough times."

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