SALT LAKE CITY — Utah quarterback Troy Williams has been looking forward to this one. Saturday’s game at Rice-Eccles Stadium against fourth-ranked Washington has been circled on his calendar for a long time — about two years, as a matter of fact.
“That game is finally here,” Williams said after the Utes’ 52-45 win over UCLA last weekend.
On Monday, Williams elaborated. He spent two seasons with the Huskies, the first as a redshirt and the second seeing limited action. The latter led to the decision to go elsewhere. A year at Santa Monica College was followed by a transfer to Utah.
Williams said that he has a cordial relationship with Washington coach Chris Petersen.
“I left on good terms,” he added. “It just wasn’t the right fit for me.”
After a stellar high school career in Southern California, Williams signed with Washington when Steve Sarkisian was at the helm. A year later, Sarkisian left for USC and Petersen was lured away from Boise State.
Williams didn’t get a lot of playing time as a redshirt freshman. He capped his first collegiate drive with a 7-yard touchdown run on a keeper against Oregon. The following week, Williams made his one and only start for the Huskies. In heavy rain, he completed 18 of 26 passes (with two interceptions) for 139 yards in a 24-10 loss to Arizona State.
And that was pretty much it for Williams at Washington. Officially, he appeared in just four games — netting 176 yards passing and 25 yards rushing.
Leaving Seattle, Williams acknowledged, wasn’t easy. He has stayed in contact with many of his former teammates ever since.
“Chatter has been going on for about two years now. I told them I’d be back,” Williams said of his goal to getting back to major college football. “I told them, you know, give me about a year or two and I’ll be back. So I kept my promise.”
Williams added that he built a lot of long-lasting friendships at Washington.
“Those are my brothers up there. I have the utmost respect for all of them,” he said. “So I’m excited to go out there and compete against them this weekend.”
It’s something that he been on his mind for quite some time. Regardless of which school he ended up at, Williams imagined himself on the field going against Washington.
“My dreams are coming true and I’m blessed to be in this position,” he explained. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Williams said he wants to show people what he can do and continue to showcase his talents. He acknowledged there’s a little extra fire this week because of what he went through at Washington.
“I will never wish that upon anybody at any type of school,” Williams continued. “It just had me frustrated and I’m just real excited to get out there this weekend.”
Williams recalled how difficult it was to tell his parents and roommates about everything that was going on and his decision to leave the Huskies.
“It was just the best decision for me,” he said.
The breaking point for Williams was being demoted to fourth string without explanation. He felt that it was time to move on after that. The junior college experience that followed gave him a whole new mindset — new sense of direction and how to handle certain people in certain situations.
Williams is glad he went through it. However, he admits there will be some feelings of redemption on Saturday.
“Yeah, a little bit. I don’t want, you know, to make too much of a big deal. But it’s obvious,” Williams said. “I was frustrated about the whole situation I was going through up there. I’m not a selfish guy, or anything like that, you know I’m a team guy. Team first, but it’s really hard going through something like that especially when everybody else around you sees the same thing you’re seeing.
“And the big question is why? Why this is happening,” he continued. “Nobody really knows. It’s kind of behind the scenes. But it’s most definitely extra fire for me.”
Even so, Williams is looking forward to some friendly banter with his Washington friends over the next couple of days and at the game.
Senior receiver Cory Butler-Byrd expects Williams to be ready go.
“I know that the type of guy that he is and that ball is going to be coming out hot this week,” Butler-Byrd said.
Williams has started all eight games for Utah this season. The junior has completed 128-of-229 passes for 1,725 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 145 yards and five scores.
At Pac-12 Media Days in July, Petersen had positive things to say about Williams.
“Troy will do some very good things. He’s a good quarterback,” he said. “And with the experience he got at the junior college and then with the experience he’ll get through fall camp, he’ll be a real good player.”
As for the impending matchup, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham downplayed any advantage the Utes may have with Williams being experienced in Petersen’s system at Washington.
“It’s been a couple of years since he’s been there and things evolve and things change,” Whittingham said. “So there may be a few things that Troy can add for us, but for the most part what you see on film is really the most important thing.”