Guerry Clegg commentary: Auburn's Tre Williams needs to apologize to Nick Saban

May 27, 2014 

Tre Williams might one day become an All-American at Auburn. He might stroll up to the podium in New York as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announces, "With the overall first pick of the 2017 draft …"

Maybe he's a good kid.

But as of this moment, Williams is a kid who has not stepped on the field in a college football game. So Williams needs to learn how to operate his brain more than his mouth.

By now, you may have heard. Williams was interviewed on a radio station in his hometown of Mobile, Ala., when he was asked to play word association.

Host: "Nick Saban."

Williams: "Little man syndrome."

If ever Saban would be justified to tell someone, "Kiss my … championship rings," this would be a justified occasion.

Granted, Saban doesn't need me or anyone else to fight his fight. Likewise, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn doesn't need any help turning this embarrassment into one of those teachable moments. So hopefully Malzahn will allow Williams to count the stairs as Jordan-Hare Stadium, aisle by aisle.

Then he needs to be man enough to follow up the letter with a phone call to Saban, who undoubtedly will graciously accept his apology because he's, well, a bigger man.

Then the Auburn staff can assist him with the finer points of penning a formal apology.

Perhaps it could be Williams's first collegiate research paper. Then perhaps he could learn a few more appropriate answers that he could have given. Such as:

• Winner. Whereas Williams has not played a single down of college football, Saban already has won four national championships. He is, like him or not, the best coach in college football of the last 20 years.

• Obsessed. Every coach wants to win. But Saban is consumed with winning -- whether it's on the recruiting trail or in a walk-through drill at practice.

Williams's comments merit a little word association themselves.

• Childish. Perhaps running his mouth can be written off to immaturity. It probably wasn't malicious. In fact, Williams probably didn't even ponder the repercussions even after he let his mouth jump in front of his brain.

• Pointless. Exactly what did Williams think he accomplished? All he has done is made himself a marked man in the Iron Bowl rivalry.

• Classless. Here's hoping Williams learns to let his play on the field do his talking.

No doubt, some will defend Williams as being immature and naïve. Some will even blame the radio reporter for setting him up.

Sorry, no sale here. Williams is 18. That's plenty old enough to show respect for a man old enough to be his grandfather. He's hardly naïve when it comes to dealing with the media. Rivals rated him the 23rd best prospect in the entire country. That doesn't necessarily mean he will be a great college player, or even decent.

But it does mean Williams has already dealt with the media more than most people his age. He committed to Auburn late in his junior year of high school -- at a press conference, of course.

In fact, that's probably part of the problem. Williams just graduated from high school and already has 5,100 Twitter followers. Fans' passion for college football takes an unhealthy turn when adults idolize a bunch of kids.

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at sports@ledger-enquirer.com

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