CHAPEL HILL – After returning from a four-game NCAA suspension against Clemson on Saturday, North Carolina safety Deunta Williams apologized to the University and fans for putting himself in the position to have to sit out.
Then he thanked the NCAA for making him so eager to play.
“It really was [frustrating] the first week, but they’ve [the NCAA] got a job to do,’’ Williams said. “I feel like them making me sit those four games made me really hungry, and I feel like I’ve got that fire back that I had my freshman year when I was out there ballin’ and stickin’ people, so I feel like that’s going to continue. I’ve got to thank them for that. I just try to find a positive in all of this.”
Williams – who recorded five tackles, and got burned on a fourth-quarter Tigers touchdown play in his first game back – said that when he was first interviewed by NCAA investigators, he never thought his trips to California to visit former Tar Heels defensive back Omar Brown would be an issue, because he and teammate Kendric Burney (who accompanied him once) paid for the trips.
Instead, the NCAA ruled that Burney (who is suspended for two more games for also receiving extra benefits from a different person, who the NCAA said met the definition of an agent) received $1,333 in benefits while Williams received $1,426 in benefits. Burney must repay $575.19 and Williams must repay $450.67 to charities of their choice. Their penalties were upheld by the NCAA on appeal.
“ I went out to California, me and Kendric, and we stayed with Omar Brown … and instead of me swiping my [credit] card, he swiped his card for the hotels, and we paid him cash at that time,’’ Williams said. “So they deemed this as a violation – and that’s why is says $1,500 dollars, and we only had to pay back $400 and stuff like that.
“That $400 is from [Brown] taxi-ing us from the airport to his house, and to our hotels. And me and my girlfriend, when we went at the time, we stayed at his house for two nights. And that’s where all that money that I have to pay back comes from.”
Williams said he took two trips to California – one two years ago with Burney, and one last spring with his girlfriend.
“ The line of questioning that they [the NCAA] asked me was, ‘Who paid for the trip?’ Well, I paid for the trip,’’ Williams said. “Me and KB paid for the trip together. That was the line of questioning. So once we revealed certain details about instances when I stayed there with my girlfriend for two nights – they felt like that was a violation and stuff like that. That was the type of stuff that they got me on.
“And I felt like, me and Omar have had a relationship for four years, so I thought it was a big brother-little brother type of thing. I would have done the same thing – I won’t now. But I would’ve did the same thing if I was in his position. But they said it was a violation, and I understand that, so I manned up and served when I had to serve.”
Williams said he wasn’t nervous to get back onto the field – just eager to get back out there and hit someone. Coach Butch Davis had him lead the Old Well Walk before the game, and he said it only took him about three plays to get his playing feet back under him.
“I’m just happy to be back,’’ he said.