LAWRENCE — Pooka Williams has opted out of the remainder of the 2020 college football season, a decision that could signal the end of the standout junior running back’s electrifying Kansas career.


Williams, a preseason All-Big 12 selection, announced his decision to step away from the program Monday night via a graphic posted to Twitter. A likely NFL Draft selection when his collegiate career ends, Williams is eligible to take that path beginning next spring.


Williams wrote that family concerns were behind his decision to leave the team.


"(Monday) 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 wrote. "Family and health are the most important things to me. Right now I need to be with my mother, who is battling health issues.


"I want to thank Coach (Les) Miles and everyone with the Kansas football program for their commitment and understanding. I believe in the direction of Kansas football and what Coach Miles is building."


The 5-foot-10, 170-pounder out of New Orleans added a caption to the graphic: "Family over everything. I’m going to miss all my guys & coaches(.) (I)t’s forever Rock Chalk."


Miles said he is "praying for (Williams) and his family during this difficult time."


"We fully support Pooka's decision to opt out of the season and to be able to support his mother in person during this difficult time as she fights this battle," Miles wrote in a statement. "I'm proud of him for making this tremendous sacrifice to support his family and do what he believes is right. We will be there for Pooka and his family in every way possible moving forward."


"Fight like a Jayhawk," added Miles, which prompted a response from Williams: "All love coach. (W)e going reunite," he wrote, adding a "fingers crossed" emoji.


If Williams’ collegiate career is over, it ended with a bang.


Williams returned a kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown on his final touch in last Saturday’s 38-17 defeat at West Virginia, a play that represented his 18th touchdown with the Jayhawks — 12 rushing, four receiving, one passing and that special teams highlight. Through two-plus seasons, the all-purpose player compiled 415 rushing attempts for 2,382 yards (5.7 yards per carry) and 66 receptions for 534 yards.


Williams’ junior campaign has been a struggle, though — he carried the ball 11 times for just 21 yards against the Mountaineers, dropping his yards per carry to 3.8 in 51 totes. Playing through an ankle injury sustained early in the Jayhawks’ season, Williams has also struggled to find openings behind a largely ineffective offensive line.


"It's not Pooka, I can tell you that. It's going to be another position group," said Miles, addressing Williams’ struggles following a 14-carry, 32-yard showing in a 47-7 defeat to Oklahoma State on Oct. 3 in Lawrence. "Because he does those things that you can't coach."


A former four-star recruit, Williams averaged 7 yards a carry as a freshman and 5.2 yards per attempt as a sophomore but missed season openers in both of those years (eligibility issue and suspension for an offseason domestic battery charge, respectively). Williams' best career outing came during a Year 1 battle at Oklahoma, where he carried the ball 15 times for 252 yards and two touchdowns and also threw a touchdown pass on a trick play in a 55-40 defeat to the College Football Playoff-bound Sooners.


Across his first 22 collegiate contests, Williams had 10 games with 100-plus rushing or receiving yards (nine rushing; one receiving). He had no such outing across what could end up being the final four games of his college career.


Williams was scheduled to speak to the media Monday afternoon, just hours before his announcement, but was a late scratch due to a "scheduling conflict."