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Cadillac WilliamsAUBURN, Ala. -- Carnell "Cadillac" Williams knows what it means to achieve goals. He was a standout college football player. He reached his goal of having a successful career in the NFL. He owns one of the greatest plays in Iron Bowl history with an 80-yard touchdown. A decade after his final season with the Tigers, he's about to reach his next goal: completing his degree.

Since his initial recruitment visit, Auburn has felt like family for Carnell Williams. He had committed to another university when Coach Tuberville was recruiting him, and after agreeing to give Auburn a try, Williams knew it was home.

"I knew in my heart that this was the place where I wanted to attend school," Williams said. 

The love and care the Auburn Family shares with each other inspires Williams. There is always support, he describes, no matter what sport or academic achievement. Students, alumni and fans meeting each other around the world brings a family atmosphere anywhere, one only a connection to Auburn can provide. Seeing this network of close support has touched him as a member of the family. 

When he came to Auburn out of high school, balancing the life of a student and of an athlete laid a strong foundation for Williams. The experiences he gained in football as well as the experiences he had in the classroom provided a variety of memories and opportunities to interact with different members of the Auburn Family. Williams says that these experiences have helped shape him into the person he is today.

After being drafted in the 2005 NFL Draft, Williams had just a few credit hours left to complete his degree. He went on to play seven seasons in the NFL, got married and recently had a son. Nearly a decade after his final season at Auburn, he finally returned home to finish what he started.

"I actually wanted to become an alumni. I felt like an alum, but technically I wasn't."

Williams returned to school to complete his college degree. When he walks the stage on December 13, he will become the first member of his family to graduate from college. He has accepted his responsibility as a role model to his nieces, nephews, cousins, and now his son, and wants to be an example of successfully completing a college education.

"It's something I definitely want to get done to be an example to my family," Williams said. "Growing up, I can tell [my son] `your daddy got a college education.' That's why I wanted to come back and finish."

Returning to school 10 years after he last sat in a classroom has proven to be a challenge for Williams. Upon his return to Auburn, he only needed to complete world literature and Spanish II to earn his degree in sociology. Taking a second-level Spanish course in 2014 when the first-level course was taken in 2004 has been the most difficult experience. Williams said he felt like he was playing catch-up as he entered the class, but the challenge has gone well. 

Earning a degree as an athlete is worth the challenge, Williams has decided. His advice to other student-athletes is to understand that the skills on the field and skills in the classroom are crucial, because a professional career in athletics is only for a short time, but an education lasts forever.

"Even if you do go to the NFL, it's a league that's not for long. I was blessed to play seven, but the average career is three years," Williams describes. "To look ahead, a college education can only help you in the long run. That's something nobody can ever take from you once you get that degree."

When thinking of what it will feel like once he has his own degree, Williams smiles. He is unsure of what emotions walking across the stage will bring. Of all of the amazing experiences he has had, this is something he has not done yet. To earn a degree, and to be the first in his family to do so, will be incredibly special.

The traditional question "What are you doing after graduation?" has some exciting prospects. Williams is thinking of coaching. Educating young people and encouraging them to accomplish their goals is something he is highly interested in.

"I'm passionate about helping younger people to reach their dreams and goals, whether it's football, education, graduating from college. Just being a light in someone's life," Williams said. 

Even though his son is 10 months old, Williams is already talking to him as if he has committed to Auburn. He would love to see his son play football, but sending him to get an education at Auburn is something Williams has considered and is excited about.

This month, the Auburn Family is cheering for Cadillac Williams as he reaches one last Auburn goal line. Whatever dream Williams chases next, the Auburn Family is proud to have him home to reach the goal of graduation. 

(Article courtesy: Auburn Tigers)

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