Williams 'extra motivated' to play LSU

AUBURN, Ala. -- All Auburn knows D'haquille Williams as is Duke. It's what the coaches call him. It's what his teammates call him. It's what the fans chanted when his name was first announced in the starting lineup or when he made his first catch or when he caught his first touchdown. You can't go to a game now and not hear "Duuuuuke" at least once.

But before there was Duke, there was Ducas.

That was Williams' original nickname growing up in LaPlace, Louisiana, a city of 32,000 people located between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

"It was too hard to say D'haquille, so a lot of people just started calling him Ducas as a kid," his younger cousin Darion Monroe said.

Monroe now plays defensive back for Tulane, but there was once a time when he was the one throwing passes to Williams. The two played together for East St. John High School. Monroe was the quarterback, and Williams was his go-to wide receiver.

"When the ball's in the air, he's going to get it," Monroe said. "If you don't beat him to it, he's going to get it. And he's going to tell you about it after he beats you, too."

There was one play Monroe remembers vividly. It was his junior year, Williams was a senior, and East St. John was playing against Landon Collins.

The call was a play-action fake and a deep ball to Williams, but when they got to the line of scrimmage, Williams yelled at his quarterback to switch the route. He wanted a quick route. It didn't leave Monroe much time to execute the play-action, but he got the throw off just in time, and Williams caught it and took it to the house.

"That was just him watching film," Monroe said. "They were playing him over the top, so he gave a great move and ran a post underneath the safety."

East St. John lost that game in double overtime, but Williams had nine catches for 108 yards and three touchdowns. He finished his senior season with 1,495 yards receiving and 25 touchdowns. Incredibly, it was only his second season of organized football.

In a perfect world, Williams would've graduated high school and signed with LSU, his dream school growing up.

However, because his credits didn't transfer over when he switched high schools, he couldn't qualify for LSU or any other major program. Instead of playing in Baton Rouge, he ended up in Perkinston, Mississippi, at Gulf Coast Community College.

"He was just a quiet, well-mannered, well-spoken kid that was still trying to feel his way," Gulf Coast offensive coordinator Chad Huff said. "He was a confident kid, but yet very to himself."

Williams could play football, though. On his first play at the junior college level, he caught a pass and went 80 yards for a touchdown.

The 6-foot-2, 216-pound receiver played two seasons at Gulf Coast and had every top program in the country calling and asking about him. Les Miles offered him a scholarship before he ever played a down. By the end of his first season, he had offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Miami, Texas, Texas A&M and others.

Something changed, though, while Williams was in junior college. He committed to LSU in May 2013, but decommitted less than two weeks later. He began to explore his options, explore the possibility of getting away from where he grew up.

"He comes from a tough place over there," Huff said. "I think he kind of felt this was best for him, to maybe get away, get away from the area. LSU recruited him. Auburn recruited him. At the end of the day, I just think he felt more comfortable and felt like the best thing for him to do was to go to Auburn."

"D'haquille's mindset was that LSU's always been a dream school of his," added Kalen Henderson, another former high school teammate. "But to get to where he wants to go, I think Auburn was the place where he needed to be."

Williams committed to Auburn two months after decommitting from LSU. He spurned Miles and his home-state school to play for Gus Malzahn and the rival Tigers.

Through the first quarter of the season, the decision has turned out to be a good one. Williams has become a go-to wide receiver, and he currently leads the Tigers in receptions (23), yards (357) and touchdowns (3). He made another spectacular catch in Saturday's win against Louisiana Tech when he reached back and hauled the pass in with one hand for the score.

"He just has a special gift," Malzahn said after the game. "He knows how to catch the ball and high point it, so no, it doesn't surprise me."

There's already talk that this could be Williams' one and only season at Auburn, that he could declare for the NFL draft after the season is over.

"He definitely fits the mold," Huff said. "I think he's a guy that could very well be one and go. He's that talented. Now at the end of the day, does that end up being what happens? I think that's yet to be seen, but I definitely think he's got the talent to do it."

There's still a lot of football left to be played, though, and for Williams, no game looms larger than Saturday's matchup against LSU. He's facing the school he grew up wanting to play for and the same one he turned down to go to Auburn.

"He's going to be extra, extra motivated because those are the guys that we played against in high school," Monroe said. "Those guys are probably going to give him a little trash talk, but knowing him, he's just going to show them up with his game on the field."

Williams is ready to show LSU that it's not Ducas anymore. It's Duke.