3000+ passing yards. 22 touchdown passes. Those are just a couple of highlights from Juice Williams' 2008 season. He was the leading passer in the Big Ten.
2009? Almost 2/3 of the way through the season: 936 yards and 4 touchdowns. Bleayck! The Illini are 1-6 and playing like a high school team. They couldn't even beat any of the schools in Indiana!
Near the end of the slow collapse at Purdue, one of the commentators said, "Boy, Juice is just playing with no confidence right now." I've been thinking about that. Why is that? How could the Illini's all time leader in passing yards and fourth year starter be struggling so much? It doesn't make much sense. He has all the tools: great arm, decent offensive line, speed, strength and a whole set of really good receivers. What gives?
I don't know the answer, of course, but dwelling on Illinois' football calamity has caused me to think about my own life. I feel for Juice. He's a guy who has ability but no production. Opportunity but no success. Support but no confidence. I feel for him, but I also identify with him.
Humans love drama. We love a great story. We want to see comebacks and resurgence and rags to riches fairy tales. ESPN would eat it up if Juice Williams suddenly starting overcoming adversity and won the big game. The sad part is that sometimes that story doesn't happen. In fact, I think it rarely happens.
At this point, 7 games into his last season with a 1-6 record, it's unlikely that Juice will be able to stage a meaningful comeback and capture glory and honor for his teammates and school. So where will his story go? Oblivion? What about my story?
I'm not really comfortable with the concept of fate. It's too convenient. It's a mental crutch. Having said that, I admit that it can be tantalizing to think about. Where will I go? Who will be? What will I do? Will they make statues of me? Put my face on a stamp? On a commercial?
Like Juice, I feel like I'm spinning my wheels in the mud. I'm playing with no confidence. I once heard a wise man say that life is divided into two parts: living and waiting to live. I'm spending a lot more time waiting to live, I think. How do you change that? How do you take a thick, sloppy existence and make it work it better? Juice and I would love to know.