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Washington State’s Mike Leach to Eric Dickerson: ‘The NFL doesn’t tell us who to recruit and we don’t tell them who to draft’

UPDATED: Tue., April 30, 2019, 10 p.m.

Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach watches his team during WSU's Crimson and Grey Scrimmage on Saturday, April 20, 2019, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach watches his team during WSU's Crimson and Grey Scrimmage on Saturday, April 20, 2019, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – Three days after Eric Dickerson accused Mike Leach of “talking down” former player James Williams in the months leading up to the NFL draft, the Washington State head coach wants this much known:

“The NFL doesn’t tell us who to recruit and we don’t tell them who to draft,” Leach said Tuesday morning in a text message to The Spokesman-Review, responding to the claims made by Dickerson, the Hall of Fame running back who has been representing Williams.

Dickerson’s frustration with Leach primarily stems from a tweet shared by the WSU coach after the 2019 NFL draft concluded. The tweet, originally posted by The Athletic’s Max Olson, listed the 49 college underclassmen who exercised their choice to leave college early – out of 144 total – but didn’t hear their names called last weekend in Nashville, Tennessee.

Among that group was Williams, the versatile running back who opted to forego his final season of eligibility with the Cougars despite Leach and the NFL advising him to stay in Pullman another year. Williams signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Kansas City Chiefs Saturday afternoon.

For the past four months, Dickerson, the former Los Angeles Rams running back, now an analyst for FS1, has been advising Williams in an agent-type role. He sent out a flurry of tweets Sunday morning taking issue with Leach’s treatment of his client.

“Thank you @Coach_Leach for talking down @boobiewilliams2 #NFLDraft stock nonstop since James declared. Because of you… James was able to choose his dream team @Chiefs. Thank you for not helping James accomplish his goal of feeding his family… who were homeless only a few years ago. Because of you … James will be a great NFL running back. Thank you for thinking this is the 1980s where players have no voice. Because of you… players will unite from Hall of Famers to top high school recruits and protest your ways. We will not stand for NCAA coaches using their power to harm young men who are simply trying to help their families. We’re watching you “Coach” Leach. #ThisTimeItsDifferent #Brotherhood.”

Leach has been unwavering in his belief that college players should stay all four years and earn their undergraduate diploma before playing in the NFL. Williams leaves WSU without his degree, but he’d still have the opportunity to obtain it if he chose to return to school at some point after, or during, his playing career.

In his text response, Leach also said: “I don’t have any comments on Dickerson. His speak for themselves. The NFL and I advise student athletes every year. Sometimes an agent has different advice, often for the agent’s best interest. There are a lot of sleazy agents out there that think about themselves, rather than their clients. We wish all of our student athletes and former student athletes the best for their futures. We will continue to advise them and encourage them to get their degrees.”

Though Williams wasn’t a projected draft pick on the majority of mock boards, the running back was inclined to leave school early in part so he could support his fiancée, her 7-year-old daughter and a newborn son the couple is expecting later this year. Williams also reasoned that NFL running backs typically have short careers, and there wasn’t much to gain by returning to a team that presumably wouldn’t feature him any more than it did last season, and potentially risk his health.

Williams scored 16 touchdowns for the Cougars in 2018, leading the team in both rushing yards (560) and receptions (83).

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