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The, sophomore running back Pooka Williams Jr. attempts to break through the Oklahoma defense in this UDK file photo from October 2019.

Kansas football junior running back Pooka Williams Jr. will opt out of the rest of the 2020 season to be closer with his family, he announced via Twitter Monday. 

“Today I made the very difficult decision to opt out of the rest of the season to be closer to my mother and family in Louisiana,” Williams said. “Family and health are the most important things to me. Right now I need to be with my mother, who is battling health issues.” 

Williams was named the Big 12 Conference’s Special Teams Player of the Week following his performance against West Virginia Saturday, including a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. This season, Williams has 51 carries for 196 rushing yards. 

Kansas football coach Les Miles said he was proud of Williams for making this “tremendous sacrifice.”

“We fully support Pooka’s decision to opt out of the season to be able to support his mother in person during this difficult time as she fights this battle,” Miles said. “We will be there for Pooka and his family in every way possible moving forward.”

Williams ran for over 1,000 rushing yards the past two seasons for the Jayhawks, and was named to the 2019 All-Big 12 First Team. He finishes with 404 carries for 2,361 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in his two-plus years at Kansas. He also made 63 catches for 527 yards and four touchdowns.

Freshman running back Daniel Hishaw Jr. and sophomore running back Velton Gardner will most likely split carries in Williams’ absence. 

Gardner has recorded 225 rushing yards so far in the season, with two touchdowns and an average of 4.8 yards per carry. Hishaw has appeared in four games this season, running for 53 yards. 

Kansas football will be back in action against Kansas State on the road Saturday in the Sunflower Showdown. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m.