UNIVERSITY PARK - Derrick Williams has made his share of decisive moves since arriving as maybe the most heralded recruit in Penn State football history in 2005.
Most, however, have been saved for the field, where he's become the most prolific receiver-returner of the Joe Paterno Era.
Tuesday, during the Nittany Lions' weekly press conference, Williams added another juke to his repertoire as he quickly removed his sparkling earrings.
Asked if JoePa had relaxed his stance on players' jewelry, Williams shifted like he was trying to shed a defender.
"Oh, man," he said. "I forgot to take them off. I'll take them off right now. I'm so sorry."
The media didn't mind, but Williams figured Paterno might.
Where he ranks
Derrick Williams is among Penn State's career leaders in several categories:
Punt-kick return TDs
"If he looks at a picture [of interview]," he said, "I'll probably get in trouble."
Such is the kind of example Williams provides, and if there's a characteristic that most defines the Lions' unexpectedly dominating 7-0 start and their meteoric rise to No. 3 this season, it's been leadership.
Williams, a co-offensive captain, brings a ton of both.
He came to Penn State joined at the hip with Justin King. Both started as freshmen. Both envisioned they'd stay three years and leave.
King did, even though his stock slipped to the fourth round before he was taken by the St. Louis Rams.
"It would have been great to have him on this team," Williams said. "There was definitely talk of me leaving after three years [too], but things changed and you've got to go with the flow. You have to do what's best for you. Justin made the best move for himself and his family. It just wasn't for me."
King, who couldn't be reached for this story, suffered a season-ending injury in training camp. He was in State College "about a week ago" and the two spoke, Williams said, "for the first time in a while."
Suffice to say King's not having quite as much fun as Williams, who leads the Lions a step closer to the middle of the national stage today when Michigan visits.
For one of the two star-studded recruits who helped rescue the Paterno Era, patience is being rewarded.
"I wasn't ready to make that step," Williams said of the NFL. "There's still a lot of things I need to learn in college. If you're good enough, the NFL will still be there for you."
One thing he's trying to improve on is becoming more sure-handed. Williams has bobbled a couple of punts, and he dropped a sure touchdown pass early last week at Wisconsin.
"I was so open," he said, "that I took my eyes off the ball."
When Williams returned to the sidelines "people had some things to say to me."
JoePa attributes Williams' occasional mistakes to overanxiousness.
"Sometimes he's in a hurry to go before he's got it," he said. "Everybody drops one once in a while. But Derrick's an explosive player and a real leader."
Williams appears to have regained the burst of speed he showed as a true freshmen, evidenced by his three returns for touchdowns this year, bringing his career total to five (most under Paterno).
He's second in the nation in kickoff return average (33.4) and also leads the Lions with 23 receptions.
"I'm just trying to help the team out as best as I can," he said. "When I made my decision to come here, I wanted to restore the face of Penn State and play for the national championship."
He's helped change the face of the program - that's for sure - and it would be fitting if Derrick Williams is settling under a punt in Miami on Jan. 8.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He'll respond to brief comments and questions in Gameday.