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January 9, 2012Brandon Williams - one of the top freshman running backs in the country - is leaving the University of Oklahoma.
And he should be applauded for it.
No, this isn't a story about another pampered athlete who is leaving a team because he wasn't getting his way.
This is a story of a young dad realizing he hates to spend time away from his daughter.
"I just thought it was important at this stage to spend more time with her," he said.
Williams was very happy with his life on the football field at Oklahoma. He was just miserable off it. He missed his little girl. And he knew being a good dad was far more important than being a star.
Because of it, he transferred to Texas A&M - just roughly an hour's drive from his hometown of Brookshire, Texas.
Transfer rules dictate he'll have to sit out a season and won't be eligible to play for the Aggies until the fall of 2013. But that's OK with him - his time with his daughter starts now.
"I didn't really care about me having playing time at Oklahoma," he said. "This has to [do] with her, not Oklahoma. If I have to sit out this year, it would be worth it because I would be with her. I talked to my mom and she thought that it would be a good idea."
Turns out, Mom has been right all along.
Brandon Williams is no ordinary player.
As a senior in at Brookshire (Texas) Royal, he rushed for nearly 2,500 yards. As the No. 14 overall recruit in the Class of 2011, he had his pick of colleges. He picked Oklahoma - an eight-hour drive from his hometown.
"I was only 17 years old," he said. "I was looking at the football part of it. Oklahoma was eight hours away, and I had never been out of Texas. I thought it wouldn't be too bad, but I found out how bad it was.
"I finally starting listening to what my mom was telling me. She would say, 'Are you sure you want to do this?' before I went up there. When I got up there, it was different. I talked to [his daughter] on the phone but she got older and older. Every day, it hurt me. I was like, 'I have got to make this right'".
In fact, after Williams arrived at Oklahoma in January of last year, he saw his daughter only twice and then only for relatively short periods of time.
"It was pretty hard," said Williams. "She knew who I was but it was hard for her to get around me and talk to me."
Hard because he wasn't there for some milestone moments.
"She turned 2 last February, and I missed her birthday," he said. "That made me homesick. I wasn't able see her at all. I went to Oklahoma early and had been there all year. I had a good relationship with her mother, but her mother wasn't going to move to Oklahoma."
That's when he decided he needed to move back home.
Williams talked to Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops after the season and asked for his release.
Williams was allowed to leave Oklahoma whenever he wanted. But as a scholarship athlete, he wouldn't be allowed to compete at another Division I school unless Oklahoma released him from their agreement.
Stoops, as is customary, would not let Williams go to another school in the Big 12. But he did sign off on a release to A&M, which - luckily for Williams - will move to the Southeastern Conference next season.
Texas A&M was eager to have him. Who wouldn't want a five-star player?
"When I got my release, I talked to Dat Nguyen (former A&M inside linebackers coach,)" he said. "[New A&M] Coach [Kevin] Sumlin recruited me out of high school. He already knew about me."
"I visited A&M on a Friday morning, and they were going to practice. I had two visits there when I getting recruited. I was with coach (Randy) Jordan and I talked to coach Sumlin. He asked me during practice and told him that I wanted to come here."
Williams, who already had filed the necessary paperwork to transfer, enrolled on Monday, attending an orientation for transfer students and freshman.
"I have already gotten an apartment, a one bedroom," he said. "I probably know just two or three of [the players]. I didn't know their living arrangements, so I had to find a place of my own. I've got to get everything packed up and set up in my apartment."
For Williams, however, nothing matters as much as his time with his daughter. In fact, he's already seen her more since came back from Oklahoma than he had in the previous year.
"I've been in Brookshire over the holidays the whole time," he said. "It's all good now. I have been spending a lot of time with her. In fact, I'm going to see her in an hour. Everything is better now."