Williams dismissed from UI football team

Williams dismissed from UI football team

CHAMPAIGN — Bennett Williams earned freshman All-American honors last season for the Illinois football team.

He won’t get the chance to earn any sort of accolades in 2018.

Team spokesman Derek Neal confirmed late Wednesday night that Illinois coach Lovie Smith has dismissed the sophomore safety from the program. 

Williams posted a statement on his Twitter account on Thursday morning, confirming he is no longer a part of the Illinois football program.

"A part of growing up is realizing that sometimes relationships don't work out," Williams wrote on Twitter. "I'm sad to say that I'm no longer a part of the University of Illinois football team. I take full responsibility for my actions that contributed to this and I'm sorry that we couldn't make it work."

Illinois sports information director Kent Brown said Thursday morning Smith declined comment on Williams' dismissal.

Williams, a 6-foot, 205-pound California native, began the 2018 season suspended for three games, the result of a team rules violation. Williams returned in the Sept. 21 home game against Penn State and played briefly before not traveling to last week’s road game versus Rutgers.

Williams did not elaborate in his Twitter post what might have caused his dismissal from the team.

Williams was named an ESPN.com Freshman All-American and was a BTN.com All-Freshman Team selection last season. He played in 11 games and made seven starts at safety in 2017. Williams had 64 tackles, three interceptions, two pass breakups, one quarterback hurry and one forced fumble in his freshman season.

Lightly recruited out of high school, Illinois defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson helped recruit Williams to the Illini after watching highlights of Williams on Facebook. Nickerson played college football at California with Williams’ dad, Garey.

"I'd like to thank the University of Illinois, coaches and staff for originally believing in me and giving me a chance," Williams wrote on Twitter. "I'm proud of what I've accomplished here. The team is on the rise and I know they have success in their future."

Williams also thanked the Illini fans and said he will miss his teammates the most.

"I know the bonds we've created will last a lifetime," Williams said. "My biggest regret is letting down the people I love the most, and those who have supported me throughout this journey. To them I say that I will strive to make you proud. I look forward to a bright future and to finding the best place for me to grow as a player and a person."