Originally created 11/27/98

Williams, Nguyenare friendly foes



Inside Texas tailback Ricky Williams' apartment hangs a Texas A&M helmet.

A trophy acquired after a great victory? Nope. Just a gift from a friend, Aggies linebacker Dat Nguyen.

The two best players in the state's biggest rivalry face off in Austin for the fourth and final time today (11 a.m., Channel 6) in the 105th meeting between the schools.

At 6-feet, 225-pounds, Williams is the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy. He needs just 63 yards to break Tony Dorsett's Division I-A career rushing record of 6,082 yards.

Nguyen, 5-11, 220, was born in a Vietnamese refugee camp in Arkansas. He is sixth-ranked A&M's career tackles leader and a finalist for the Lombardi and Butkus awards.

They are guaranteed to spend much of the game trying to run over each other.

In three games against A&M, Williams has averaged 163.7 yards per game and 7.1 yards per carry. Nguyen has averaged 11.6 tackles over the same span.

"They are two of the best players at their position in the country," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "The thing I like about Dat, he plays with so much emotion. It looks like he's having fun."

Williams and Nguyen met at the Playboy All-America team presentation last year in Phoenix. Nguyen later gave Williams the helmet.

"I told him he'd better try to hide it until he got it to his room. He might get in trouble," Nguyen said.

"We spent the whole weekend together. Whenever we could, we sat down and talked about last year's game, his team and my team," Williams said. "I have a lot of respect for Dat. He's a great player."

The respect is mutual. Both players have sensed at one time or another they didn't belong. Williams' dreadlocks turned off some Texans. Nguyen's foreign background did the same thing.

"Most people like to stereotype you," Nguyen said. "When they see him with his dreadlocks, they say `Oh man, he's different.' They look at me and see I'm Asian, and always something comes to mind."

Nguyen said he hopes Williams breaks the rushing record -- so long as A&M (10-1, 7-0 Big 12) wins the game. Texas (7-3, 5-2) has won two of the last three in the series.