This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
What promises were made and which were broken to this day, Kim Williams doesn't know exactly.
What moved her was the hurt she heard in her son's voice when he called her from Seattle and said he wasn't happy. To that point in the fall of 2014, Kim had nurtured all the hopes that any parent wants for a child they send to college: a degree, trustworthy friends, a strong environment to grow and mature.
The phone call changed everything: "The only thing I could say to him was, 'Son, come home.' That's what he wanted to hear."
In the two years since, Kim's son Troy Williams went to junior college without a scholarship and led his team to an undefeated season. He transferred to Utah, where he quickly assumed the starting quarterback role, was voted team captain and has been at the forefront of the No. 17 Utes' 7-1 start.
But time apparently hasn't healed old wounds for Williams. He pulled no punches this week when asked about his former school, No. 4 Washington, which comes to town Saturday to play the Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
While he said he still has as many as 20 former teammates he calls "brothers for life," he still struggles with the circumstances surrounding his departure from the UW, and his relationship with Husky coach Chris Petersen.
"I feel like I'm appreciated here," Williams said. "I feel like the coaches want me to be here, want me to compete, come out here to help win games. At Washington, I don't I feel like I was wanted or shown any respect."
To this point, the split has worked out well for Williams, who got the starting job he wanted, and Petersen, whose sophomore quarterback Jake Browning is being touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate. But that hasn't stopped Williams from tapping into an well of emotion about it, and he hopes it gives him an edge this Saturday when the game he's been awaiting for two years finally kicks off.
Tim Kaub, Williams' former coach in high school and junior college, understands.
"This one's very real for him," Kaub said. "He can't fake it."
Starting with Sark
Then-Washington coach Steve Sarkisian wasn't even there to see Troy Williams. The quarterback's high school, Narbonne, in Harbor City, Calif., had a great left tackle that season that the Huskies had offered. But like many who saw the skinny sophomore quarterback that season, Sarkisian couldn't peel his eyes away. The 10th-grader threw for 300 yards, ran for another 135 in a game against rival San Pedro in a 35-31 loss.
Afterward, the story goes, Sarkisian approached the Gauchos' head coach Manuel Douglas and said: "Call me Monday morning with that kid in your office, because he has a scholarship from the University of Washington."
It was Williams' first offer and the last one that mattered. He committed when Sarkisian told him he would go to war with him as the Huskies' quarterback. He was hooked.
Said Kaub: "The thing about Troy: if Troy trusts you, Troy will run through a wall for you."
Williams was the guy Sarkisian tapped to talk to would-be recruits at team camps. He also hosted his high school teammate, Keishawn Bierria, on an official visit and helped convince him to join him in Montlake.
"It was a great campus," he said. "Great academic background. I was hoping I might be able to get my degree from there, but that didn't really work out."
The vision Williams had went off-track after only one year when Sarkisian left in December 2013, and Petersen came in. He just didn't know yet how far.
Not one of the guys
Williams said he never had a chance with Coach Pete. But maybe Peterson never had a chance either.
The schism between the two started back probably further than Petersen could pinpoint: high school. While Williams was committed to Washington, he kept track of the schools which were interested and which were not. While Boise State, then under Petersen, recruited his teammate A.J. Richardson who went on to play for the Broncos, when it came to Williams, there was no interest.
"I always thought like, 'You're watching his tape, you have to be watching the guy throwing the ball,' " he said. "I guess I just never was one of his guys."
Whether Williams got a fresh start or not with Petersen, he never perceived one. To him coaching decisions were inscrutable, behind-closed-doors calls into which he had little insight.
The breaking point came after he scored his first career touchdown in garbage time during a loss to Oregon in 2014. He was riding high, getting texts from family and friends.
When he was called into Petersen's office the following Sunday, Williams said the UW coach demoted him to the bottom of the depth chart a decision that rattled him so much that he hadn't fully processed it by midweek, when there was a sudden decision that he would start that week against Arizona State.
It was not an ideal scenario, with ripping winds, and Williams didn't rise to the occasion, either. He was 18 for 26 with 139 yards and two picks, and never played again.
"How can you justify that?" asked Kaub, one of Williams' biggest staunchest supporters. "I think that's where the trust really died."
Petersen declined to comment about Williams' version of events to The Tacoma News-Tribune. But to this day, Williams asks himself if he was set up to fail.
"It was kind of awkward," he said. "I felt like it was a little bit hand-chosen that I was going to go into those circumstances and try to fight through it. But I wasn't going to tell him no."
Petersen on Monday described his first year at Washington as "chaotic times," and he was juggling a handful of quarterbacks that he hadn't recruited. Williams wasn't the only one affected by a perceived culture rift from the Sarkisian era. There were so many transfers and early departues that the Huskies even this season are starting only six seniors.
"Sometimes at the end of the day, as you're working through all those things, and you didn't recruit a guy and all, guys just say, 'Maybe I need a fresh start,' " Petersen said. "I thought Troy was a good player here. I thought he would go somewhere and be a really good player … He can throw the ball, he throws a nice, tight spiral."
He just wouldn't throw any more for Washington.
Kaub reached out on Williams' behalf to gauge where he might be able to transfer, but in the end, Williams wanted to go someplace where he could play imediately. The only sure bet was Santa Monica College, where Kaub by then was the offensive coordinator.
Williams said the hardest part was calling his parents, but he also had a difficult time telling his roommates: Bierria, Azeem Victor and Darrell Daniels. After the initial emotions wore down, they joked with one another in their living room that Williams would come back to play them someday.
"I can still remember the day, I was telling everybody, just give me a year or two, and I'll be right back," he said. "We just laughed about it. And now it's actually here."
No one has ever mistaken Kyle Whittingham for Steve Sarkisian. Sark was the outgoing, passionate extrovert who made recruits want to fight for him. Whittingham, in Kaub's terms, "is your drill sergeant," a commanding presence who can fill a room.
But the feeling Kim Williams got from both men on home visits was the same: It was an easy relationship, based on directness above all else. Whittingham told Troy that Utah could run well and would always play good defense, but "a passing game would take us into the stratosphere."
"We just felt this similar connection with Coach Whitt," said Kim Williams, who never met Petersen. "The coaching staff really made him feel at home."
Troy Williams committed to the Utes last fall, then took the drive up with his parents and baby sister from Los Angeles before the winter semester to move. It wasn't exactly an easy time for him to leave the family: His grandmother, who watched him while his parents worked, had died, and his mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
He had reservations, but Kim reassured him.
"I told him, 'I'm gonna be OK, I'm a fighter just like you,' " she said. "My concern is you being fine."
Troy has been fine at Utah. His season stats 1,725 yards, 12 touchdowns, 5 interceptions don't leap off the page, but his results do. Utes coaches have said he's done everything they've asked of him, and they're pleased with his performance so far.
"He's gotten wins with his arm, he's gotten wins running the ball," co-offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said last week. "He's gotten wins where he didn't play well, but he had enough guts to battle back in the fourth quarter … I think quarterback's all about winning. Stats are for losers, it's all about finding ways to win."
So why revisit all the anguish? Why dig up old slights and microaggressions?
Kaub tells this story about Williams at Santa Monica: The year before Williams arrived, the Corsairs had lost big to Southwestern College, a team from San Diego. When SMC played them in 2015, after Williams' first touchdown pass, he pointed at the sideline and started talking smack without knowing a single player.
"Troy fires himself up, and I think that's why he's re-engaging that aspect of what happened at Washington," Kaub said. "He let it bubble back up to the surface. He's always better with a nemesis."
This is one time Williams won't have to force his competitive fire. He's eager for Saturday, just as he's been for the past two years. As many as 40 members of the Williams friends and family crew are flying up to Salt Lake City to be there.
Troy doesn't want to let them down.
"Just trying to prove what [Washington] missed out on, remembering how frustrating it was just being in that situation," he said. "It's a big game for me and my family. It's the one you gotta get.
Troy Williams timeline
June 2012 • Williams, a 4-star recruit at Narbonne High (Calif.), commits to Washington
February 2013 • Williams officially signs with UW, becoming Steve Sarkisian's third 4-star QB in two years
December 2013 • Sarkisian is hired by USC; Chris Petersen is hired to replace him at UW
October 2014 • Williams makes his first and only start, a 24-10 loss to Arizona State
January 2015 • Williams transfers from Washington, announces his intention to play for Santa Monica College
December 2015 • Williams signs with Utah, joins program in January to play in spring ball
August 2016 • Williams wins starting QB job and is voted team captain at Utah
No. 4 Washington at No. 17 Utah
P Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
TV • Fox Sports 1