AUBURN — When Carnell "Cadillac" Williams first stepped foot onto Auburn’s campus in 2001, the freshman running back had lofty expectations in front of him.
As a five-star recruit from Attalla, Williams more than lived up to his expectations on the field, rushed for the second-most yards in Auburn history, and led the Tigers to a 14-0 season in 2004. He became a first-round draft pick and returned to Auburn in 2019 following a seven-year NFL career.
“I'm forever indebted to this institution because it changed the whole trajectory of the Williams family,” said Williams. “Auburn has been so good to me. Every dream that I wanted to accomplish, this place gave me the opportunity.
Flash forward 18 years, and Williams has been called upon to lead the team once again, this time as the interim head coach following the firing of Bryan Harsin.
“This has been a bittersweet 48 hours,” said Williams. “There are coaches and staff that lost their jobs on Monday. It’s been tough and certainly not easy. But Lord knows I’m definitely appreciative of coach Harsin for what he gave to Auburn and our team these last two years.”
Williams was one of the coaches from the Gus Malzahn tenure to be retained by Harsin.
With several coaches gone, Auburn has made some changes to the staff, including Will Friend and Ike Hilliard taking over as co-offensive coordinators, along with Joe Bernardi handling tight ends for the remainder of the season.
The deck is stacked against this staff as three more SEC games, including the Iron Bowl, along with a solid Group of 5 team in Western Kentucky, are on the horizon, but Williams made his expectations for the team clear during his first meeting with them on Monday.
“One thing that's going to make me happy, man, is if we play good football and hard Auburn football and honestly that is what I want to get these kids to do,” Williams said. “Play hard, compete."
There is a lot of work to be done by Williams and his staff on the recruiting trail, keeping the commits that the team already has, and finding a way to win during the Tigers’ final four games. But there is also history in the making with Williams taking over, as he is the first African-American head coach in Auburn football history, a fact that is not lost on the former running back.
“No doubt. To hear that brings chills. I get goosebumps,” Williams said. “I never thought in a million years I would be in this position. It never crossed my mind. All I want to do is change lives.”
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