NCAA Football

Neck injury ends career of Arkansas RB Williams

(Photo by Dannie Walls/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(TSX / STATS) -- Arkansas running back Rawleigh Williams III, who rushed for 1,360 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, announced Monday he is giving up football after suffering a second neck injury.

Williams' latest neck injury came during the Razorbacks' final spring scrimmage last month. He was carted off the field and taken to the hospital.

Williams, who would have been a junior this season, wrote a heartfelt letter on Arkansas' official website that was titled "Next Chapter."

"I've seen the replay. I saw a normal hit. That scared me," Williams wrote in his letter. "It shows me it doesn't take a big hit at this point. Any little thing can trigger it. I also saw the reaction of my mom and my sister. That broke my heart. I can't do this anymore. I want to be able to walk."

Williams suffered the first neck injury as a freshman in 2015 against Auburn and underwent surgery to fuse a disk in his neck.

"I'm moving onto the next chapter of my life," Williams wrote. "It's tough to not be able to play football anymore because I've been playing since I was four years old. It wasn't something I wanted to do or planned on having to do so early. I've prayed, listened to my doctors, my parents and my gut. It still doesn't seem real yet, but I really don't have a choice. I've dodged the bullet twice. I realize at the end of the day I want to live a normal life and be around my family."

Williams met with doctors and Arkansas coach Bret Bielema last week before making his final decision to walk away from playing football.

"Coach B (Bielema) has been someone I've looked up to since the day I met him," Williams wrote. "He's always been there for me. I'm grateful to him for the opportunity to play football at the University of Arkansas and in front of the best fans in college football. I'm grateful for the opportunities I'm going to earn during the rest of my time here. I can't wait to work under him and learn. I want to be a general manager one day, and he's already helped me look into career paths to achieve my goals."

Bielema gave his full support to Williams and his family.

"As a head coach you always remember the first meeting you have with all your recruits and how that first impression is made," Bielema said Monday. "Rawleigh was committed to another school, but after a visit with him and his father, I knew we had a chance. We said at the time that unique recruiting stories often lead to unique experiences in the years ahead and that has been no disappointment. Rawleigh handled his recruiting with maturity and class and that followed into his playing career.

"At Arkansas, not only does he have All-SEC academic success, but he also steps away as the reigning SEC regular-season rushing leader. This next chapter in Rawleigh's life will be filled with unlimited success in any career path or anyway of life he chooses. As a head coach I couldn't be more excited to begin the next chapter with him and be there for him."

Updated May 8, 2017