Purdue's Williams hopes wait is finally over

August, 18, 2008
8/18/08
3:28
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

To this point, Torri Williams' college career has been a sequence of setbacks, some his own doing, most stemming from bad luck.

Williams, a fifth-year senior safety at Purdue, was arrested in March 2007 for operating a vehicle while intoxicated and indefinitely suspended from the team. Earlier in the night, Williams had been at a club where a fight broke out and teammate Selwyn Lymon was stabbed. Then, this past May, he was suspended once again after being accused of shoplifting from a Lafayette, Ind., grocery story.

Purdue coach Joe Tiller announced Thursday that Williams has been fully reinstated with the team, but whether the talented safety can stay on the field remains to be seen. Ever since he appeared in nine games as a true freshman in 2004, Williams hasn't been able to stay healthy.

There was the broken leg in the spring of 2005, wiping out any chance of playing that fall. There was the dislocated knee in the 2006 opener -- another season gone. Williams played in seven games last fall, recording two interceptions, but a ruptured Achilles' tendon against Michigan on Oct. 13 shut him down again.

He's spent more time with Purdue's trainers than his teammates.

"They're almost my best friends, man," Williams said.

The 6-2, 208-pound Texan can joke about it now, but the last few seasons have brought little joy.

"It's frustrating in a sense because you always want to complete every season and play in every game," Williams said. "But it's life and you have ups and downs. The biggest thing for me was just the mental aspect, get my mind right to even want to come back and play."

Williams said he never came too close to quitting and stayed connected with football through his TV set. But others wondered whether he would keep coming back.

"It always goes through your mind, for as many injuries as he's had, will he at some point say, 'I had enough disappointment,'" defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo said. "You go through long rehabs and nobody's watching you, it's very, very difficult. But he's mentally doing well with the whole thing."

This fall, Williams expects to showcase the skills that few have ever questioned, possibly in a starting role. The Boilers recently moved Brandon King to his natural position of cornerback, opening up a starting spot at safety.

Asked when he last felt this healthy, Williams smiled and said, "It's been a while."

"It'll feel good to get back on the field, running out of the tunnel and playing in front of Ross-Ade [Stadium], 60,000 people," he said. "It's gonna be a good time."

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