By Tom Green
Cadillac Williams has made the run through the south end zone tunnel at Jordan-Hare Stadium 52 times during his life — 27 as a player, 25 more as an assistant coach at Auburn.
None of those will have prepared Williams for the one he’ll make Saturday evening, when Auburn hosts Texas A&M in what will be Williams’ first home game as the Tigers’ interim head coach.
“It’s Monday, so I’m going to hold it together,” Williams said. “You can’t make this up. Honestly, I don’t know how I’m going to feel.”
It’s sure to be an emotional, out-of-body experience for Williams. Then again, just about everything during the last week has been surreal to the former All-American running back. He took over as his alma mater’s interim coach last Monday following the firing of then-coach Bryan Harsin, who was shown the door by Auburn president Dr. Chris Roberts less than two years into his tenure, finishing with a 9-12 record on the Plains.
Since then, life for Williams has been hectic but rewarding. Sleep has been difficult to come by, thanks to late nights at the Auburn athletics complex putting together gameplans and trying to put out fires left and right. It has been like trying to drink out of a fire hydrant for Williams and the remaining members of Auburn’s coaching staff.
It culminated in an overtime loss at Mississippi State in a game that saw Auburn erase a 21-point first-half deficit and claim the lead twice in the fourth quarter before coming up just short of the road upset. But now the Tigers return home, and things are starting to slow down for Williams, who has been able to reflect on a “bombshell” of a week and show appreciation for all the support he has received — support from players and from within the program, support from former teammates and lettermen, and an outpouring of support from the Auburn fanbase.
“Honestly it doesn’t surprise me,” Williams said. “It’s why I chose this institution two decades ago, because of that same love that you all are feeling from the Auburn family. They embraced a kid like myself that had a dream to take care of my mom, to change the trajectory of my family. The feeling they gave me on my official visit is one that always stands out to me…. Everybody I ever played with, people are truly reaching out and supporting me and getting behind this. I’m excited. I’m honored that my fellow brothers would actually take time out and get behind this.”
That support has brought Williams some solace during a hectic time. He was finally able to get some sleep Sunday night — five hours’ worth, which nearly matched his total hours of rest from last Monday to Thursday. He’s settling into his new role, embracing the opportunity ahead and taking it one day at a time.
The job’s not done, though. He’s ready for an even better performance this weekend when the Tigers welcome the Aggies to Jordan-Hare Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m., with the game airing on ESPN2.
Shortly before that, Williams will run onto Pat Dye field for the first time as Auburn’s head coach, with the full-throated support of 87,451 adoring fans behind him.
“I do know I have a job to do, to get this team ready to play and get these guys prepared and lead these guys,” Williams said. “I know I can’t make this about me, but I am going to sit in the moment. I’m going to enjoy it. I’m excited for that moment and honor.”