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'I gotta graduate': Mom told Raequan Williams to pick Michigan State over NFL

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Raequan Williams

Raequan Williams never bothered to get any feedback from the NFL about where he might be selected if he entered next spring’s NFL Draft.

It turns out the Michigan State defensive tackle who is about to finish his redshirt junior season with the Spartans on Monday when they take on Oregon in the Redbox Bowl, couldn’t even if he wanted to.

His mom wouldn’t let him.

That was just one of the reasons Williams, a third-team All-Big Ten performer and one of the top-rated draft-eligible tackles this year said on Friday during Michigan State’s press conference previewing the bowl game in San Francisco.

Of course, that wasn’t the only reason Williams decided to come back, it was just the one that drew most of the laughs.

“I think we have a really good team coming back,” Williams explained. “I feel like we underachieved a little bit this year for the talent we have on this team. We’ve got big things in our future, we think, and plus my guys, I can’t leave my guys.

“And my mom wouldn’t let me. I gotta graduate. You know how it is.”

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Williams said last week he intended to return for his senior season after earning first-team All-Big Ten honors from the Associated Press as a junior. He was part of the No. 1 rushing defense in the nation that is allowing 81.3 yards a game and collecting 9.5 tackles for loss.

And while he knew all along he’d be back, the final word was music to the ears of coach Mark Dantonio.

“Well, that was a Happy New Year deal,” Dantonio said. “When Raequan made that decision it’s the first of hopefully a number of guys that make that decision, but that’s up to them.”

When Michigan State finished the regular season, speculation began about whether a number of juniors would return for their senior seasons.

Cornerback Justin Layne has already decided he’s entering the NFL Draft and won’t play in the bowl game. Defensive end Kenny Willekes and linebacker Joe Bachie both said they’d wait until after the game to decide.

While Michigan State would love to get them all back, Williams’ return is an important one.

“He an anchor guy. He’s a guy that you can build your defense around,” Dantonio said. “We had the No. 1 defense in the country against the run and there’s a big reason for that. We have very good players up front and he’s one of them.

"He’s a dominant player for us and to have him return is a huge statement, not just for our defense but for our program in terms of what we’re trying to do relative to graduating our players and things of that nature.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau