Arizona defensive lineman Williams to medically retire

Published: Jan. 29, 2016 at 6:40 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:24 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Arizona freshman defensive lineman Sharif Williams, one of the hopes to bring size to the Wildcats' interior, announced he is giving up football for medical reasons, according to a post on his Facebook page Friday.

Williams (6-2, 313 pounds) suffered a major knee injury in the opening game of his senior year at Fresno (Calif.) Central High School. He was already committed to Arizona at the time, expected to be part of Arizona's 2014 signing class, but he delayed enrollment until spring 2015 while undergoing rehab.

He redshirted last season.

Here is what he wrote on his Facebook page (with a little editing for grammar):

"I have made the decision to (medically retire) from playing football. This is one of the hardest decisions I have ever made in my life. I have been battling every-day knee pain from my high school injury. This may be a Big surprise to most because I've been acting like I was perfectly fine just so people wouldn't worry about me ... but I've been going through a lot.

"I'm finally at the point where I can say I gave it my all and I've done more than most people who have had an injury like mine. I realized I have to do this for me and my future health. I've always wondered who would I be if I wasn't Sharif the football player. It's time for me to find out ..."

Williams, in an interview with KOLD News 13 during fall camp, said he suffered a "complete dislocation of the knee. Tore the ACL, MCL, LCL ... almost everything in my knee. It was bad."

The injury occurred late in the first half in a game that was televised by ESPN.

"I came out of my stance and my foot was caught," he said.

"I don't know if somebody stepped on it but something happened. I kind of just folded over. I kind of remember my foot touching my head, which was weird. I was like, 'How is my foot touching my head?'

"I'm lying on the ground and I'm telling people to pick me up. I thought I had a stinger, where the leg just goes numb. I was like, 'Pick me up, pick me up' ... but our trainer came out and I saw the look on her face, and I could tell it was bad."

Williams was high school teammates with a pair of current Arizona players -- running back Nick Wilson and cornerback Devon Brewer.

Arizona, which is still in the midst of a total makeover of its defensive staff, could be shifting from the 3-3-5 scheme of former coordinator Jeff Casteel to the 4-2-5 of new coordinator Marcel Yates, formerly of Boise State.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez has yet to announce a defensive line coach and could very well be waiting until after Signing Day next Wednesday (assuming his target is currently on another staff).

Arizona loses starter Reggie Gilbert and Jeff Worthy off last year's line. Senior-to-be Anthony Fotu won't be eligible until midseason because of suspension, Rodriguez said this month.

Among the defensive linemen Arizona returns for 2016 are:

Junior Calvin Allen, junior Jack Banda, junior Luca Bruno, redshirt freshman Finton Connolly, senior Sani Fuimaono, sophomore Marcus Griffin and junior Parker Zellers.

(An Arizona official acknowledged that Williams intends to medically retire. If he is on a medical scholarship, he will not count against the team's 85-player limit.)

In another personnel move, running back Jonathan Haden has told Rodriguez he intends to transfer, a school official said. Haden, who has played slot receiver and tailback, had seven rushes for 44 yards last season and three receptions for 21 yards as a redshirt freshman. Haden (5-6, 181) was a key contributor on special teams, making 10 tackles. was the first to report Haden's departure. The Arizona Daily Star later reported that backup offensive lineman T.D. Gross, who will graduate in May, will not return.

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