No announcement yet.

Heisman hopeful Williams keeps Memphis running smoothly

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Heisman hopeful Williams keeps Memphis running smoothly

    Aug. 31, 2005
    By Dennis Dodd
    CBS Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- So what does the most famous man in Memphis -- the big timer with his own stock car -- drive around town?

    "A '97 Blazer," DeAngelo Williams said. "It has more dings. ... The windshield wipers don't work. I have more bumps and bruises. ..."

    Williams might drive a junker, but in Memphis the senior tailback also drives the bus, the one that leads Tigers football out of anonymity.

    DeAngelo Williams is among the best football players Memphis has ever produced. (AP)
    That's no small feat here in the middle of SEC country, where Memphis football isn't even the biggest thing on campus. It might start with what was arguably the biggest offseason story in college football -- a 1/24th-scale model car that sprung from the mind of Memphis sports information director Jennifer Rodriguez.

    Her husband, a big NASCAR fan, collects car models. She got the idea while trying to think of a unique way to kick off Williams' Heisman candidacy. Rodriguez came up with the vision for the 8-inch by 2-inch, blue and gray No. 20 car -- made in China, for ages 3 and up -- to hype the nation's leading all-purpose runner last year.

    But a fun idea became much more than that. The cars became this summer's Beanie Babies. Everyone had to have one. They were mailed to Heisman voters as a promotion. Fans and collectors jumped on them like they were the last helicopters out of Saigon.

    It has become a lesson in economics. The original supply of 3,500 cars priced at $35 were snatched up by boosters and fans long ago. The school has made at least a $40,000 profit. The car was officially a collector's item before Monday's season opener against Ole Miss.

    In July, Memphis president Shirley Raines needed six more. A cocktail party acquaintance offered athletic director R.C. Johnson $150 for one. Cars have begun showing up on eBay for $200.

    "We're out of them," Johnson said.

    It became a lesson in guerilla marketing. The trend among SIDs lately is that less is more. All the Heisman T-shirts, postcards and bumper stinkers were thought to turn off the media. Why waste the money? Major programs market themselves by being on TV each week.

    Will the car make any difference in the Heisman race? Yes and no. It might get Williams a trip to New York as a finalist but the odds against any player from a non-BCS school winning the hardware are huge.

    Memphis isn't on TV each week and remains overshadowed by John Calipari's basketball program. But maybe that's not the point. The car got Williams and the Tigers mentioned on national television, in major newspapers and, well, on every major sports Internet site.

    If one recruit, maybe the next DeAngelo Williams, notices Memphis because of the car then it was worth it.

    "If I'm a voter, I throw a bumper sticker in the trash," coach Tommy West said. "That car, I'm doing to put on my desk."


    Best of all, it became a lesson in doing the right thing. It focused attention on a fun-loving kid from tiny Wynne, Ark. who just might be the biggest personality in this town since Elvis. The 22-year old literally can't walk down the street without being recognized.

    Mostly because he can't say no -- to his teammates or his adoring fans. He played with the emotions of Memphis by drawing out his decision to stay for his senior year and not head to the NFL.

    "I've decided to forgo," Williams said before pausing, "my NFL career."

    "I said, 'You dirty dog,'" Johnson said. "He played it right to the end."

    Over the weekend, Williams stayed for 4 hours at a fan fest signing every last scrap of paper, shirt and plastic stock car shoved in front of him. At Memphis' summer camp he did an impromptu signing for almost two hours.

    At a black-tie fundraiser, Williams was "mobbed," according to one assistant coach, while Memphis Grizzlies players Shane Battier and Mike Miller looked on.

    "We can go to a grocery store and half the grocery store is like, 'Oh, it's him,'" said best friend and teammate Maurice Avery.

    "If I want to have fun somewhere, I might call him out and say, 'This is DeAngelo Williams.'"

    "(In the city) there isn't a person who doesn't know who he is," said offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. "This kid gets pulled every day. Jennifer gets requests for him to appear at kids' birthday parties. I've been hit up at golf tournaments."

    Who is your pick to win the Heisman this year?

    Somebody will come out of nowhere
    Matt Leinart
    Reggie Bush
    Adrian Peterson
    Vince Young
    DeAngelo Williams

    Good thing Williams is a willing participant. He has a heart as big as the Liberty Bowl and smile as wide as the nearby Mississippi. The NFL just doesn't make sense right now.

    "They call it 'work,'" he said. "Everybody I talk to in the NFL calls it work."

    Memphis has become his comfy lounge chair. The city is loving him back. They know Williams is largely responsible for Memphis assembling consecutive winning seasons for only the second time since 1977.

    Twenty times since 1978, the program has finished under .500. In Williams' three seasons, Memphis has gone to two bowl games. The Tigers have won 14 of their past 19 games as Williams shot up the charts.

    Last year, he led the nation with 185.8 all-purpose yards per game and is the nation's leading returning rusher (1,948 yards). He comes into this season as arguably the school's best player ever. The school career records for rushing, scoring and all-purpose yards already belong to him. His "touches" are magic -- he averages 7.3 yards per catch, rush or return.

    "I don't really care about if they're making money off me in college," Williams said. "They're paying for my education. If they're going to give me $65,000-plus to attend their university and they make $40-, $50-, $60 million I don't care. That degree will mean something to me forever."

    Williams admittedly has changed his outlook from high school. It used to be about getting to the NFL. Now it's about enjoying one final blast of a senior season, a la Matt Leinart.

    "He's going to give you that veteran talk, 'You need to go ahead and get your money,'" Williams said of Memphis grad and St. Louis Rams receiver Isaac Bruce, who worked out on campus in the offseason. "That's because he's been there for 13 years. If you get the other view (from a free agent), they'll say you need to stay in school to get your degree."

    There was good reason other than fun for Williams to stay. Had he come out, he might have been the fourth back, at best, taken behind Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams and Cedric Benson. In 2006, he is already being projected as a top-five overall pick.

    Amazing stuff for one of those who got away. Big-time recruits in the South usually don't commit to places like Memphis. Williams' other finalists three years ago were Iowa, Arkansas and Ole Miss. Which one doesn't belong in the picture?

    "You don't turn down the University of Arkansas for Memphis," Williams said, "You turn it down for USC, Michigan and other top schools."

    But Williams did just that. His high school coach told him he was making the biggest mistake of his life, that Memphis is a "graveyard."


    "It was based on, after college, would I live there?" Williams said. "Look at the Auburns, the Arkansases, the Alabamas. You get the picture now? Some of those places Wal-Mart is a big hit.

    "Memphis is a big city. You never see the same people twice."

    Get this picture: Williams is the spitting image of Barry Sanders as a runner right down to the No. 20. At 5-feet-10 and 217 pounds he can turn the corner, catch passes or bust it up inside.

    He might lack Williams' uncanny cutting ability but there is something else.

    "His calves, they're like darn softballs," Fichtner said. "Don't tell me there's not something to this. You know, it's power."

    Williams also is the class clown. When he and Avery were tormented by upperclassmen as freshmen, they vowed it would never be like that when they got older.

    "We wanted to change things so bad," he said. "It was crazy around here. If you stepped on a stick too loud, you'd get (grief)."

    Freshmen now are told two things by the seniors. They won't be hazed but they will have to provide what Williams calls "a little music." During lunch, freshmen are required to stand up and sing a song of their choice.

    When half the team went to Williams' church in Wynne, the boys cracked up. Each player was required to stand up and tell something about themselves. Imagine how uncomfortable you would be in front of a strange congregation.

    "This is a serious world but laughter cheers us all up," he said.

    The question has to be asked: Can one player turn around an entire program?

    "No, but I think one personality and one hard worker can change the work ethic of others and influence change in a team," Williams said.

    The whole thing started small, ran for 5,498 all-purpose yards and evolved into a plastic phenomenon. Memphis officials wanted to do something for this gem in their midst. West originally vetoed a Heisman campaign but finally signed off on the model car after seeing Rodriguez's presentation.

    "When you're us, you try harder," West said.

    After that, you hand the ball to No. 20 -- and smile.

Related Topics


  • DJRamFan
    USC still unsure of WR Williams' status
    by DJRamFan
    Aug. 24, 2004
    By Dennis Dodd Senior Writer
    Tell Dennis your opinion!

    It's looking less likely that USC receiver Mike Williams will play in Saturday's season opener against Virginia Tech.


    Williams' eligibility status remained up in the air Tuesday, four days before the season begins. He is attempting to regain his amateur status after declaring for the NFL draft, hiring an agent and accepting money from his representative.

    Coach of the No. 1 Trojans, an optimistic Pete Carroll, said on Tuesday there is a "possibility" that Williams could still play in the opener. However, time is running out.

    USC faxed what is thought the be the final documents needed by the NCAA regarding Williams on Tuesday. The school now awaits the NCAA's decision.

    A school source considered Williams' chance at reinstatement at "50-50 at best."

    "It's been so frustrating of late that things have not been able to culminate to an end," Carroll said. "We'll just sit on it and see what happens."

    With him, USC gets another Heisman Trophy candidate (quarterback Matt Leinart already is considered the favorite) added to its already powerful lineup. Without him, the Trojans will have to move on with a largely inexperienced, but talented, set of receivers.

    USC already will be missing starting tailback Hershel Dennis, who is indefinitely suspended for a violation of team rules.

    While there is no "drop dead" date for Williams to be able play this week, the team leaves for the Washington D.C. area on Thursday. Presumably, Williams could hop on a flight as late as Friday, if he is cleared.

    "The NCAA has been so methodical about this," Carroll said. "I'm not surprised it's gone this long, just by the feel of it."

    Williams has been held out of practice the past two weeks as USC put in the game plan for Virginia Tech. Most likely, there are three possible outcomes to his future:

    He could be declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA;
    He could be reinstated by the NCAA;
    He could be reinstated by the NCAA after being suspended for one or more games.
    The 6-foot-5, 230-pound rising junior has been one of the most dominant receivers in the country the past two years. The Tampa, Fla., product caught 95 passes for 1,314 yards and 16 touchdowns last year in helping lead the Trojans to a co-national championship. He was projected as a first-round choice after declaring for the draft.


    Williams declared for the NFL draft after Maurice Clarett's legal challenge briefly opened the door to players less than three years out of high school. The NFL retained its three-year rule because...
    -08-25-2004, 09:04 AM
  • RamWraith
    Williams still teaching, working hard off field
    by RamWraith
    Ted Lewis New Orleans Times-Picayune June 12, 2008

    In his current role as the pastor of the church he recently founded in his adopted home of St. Louis, Aeneas Williams often tells the story of how at age 40 Moses found it in his heart to visit his brother Aaron, thus beginning the saga of Exodus.

    Williams usually uses the story in the context of how he and wife Tracy started The Spirit of the Lord Family Church in his basement last year when he was almost the same age as Moses.

    But it also refers to something that happened two decades ago - when Williams, after two years of attending Southern University as an ordinary student after graduating from Fortier High School in New Orleans, felt moved in his heart to walk on the football team just prior to the start of the season.

    "Michael Lindsay, a friend of mine from Fortier, asked me why I wasn't playing, and what he said really struck with me," said Williams, who had last played on Fortier's undefeated 1985 team.

    "And my uncle, William Whitson, was always saying to, 'Nikki, why are you not playing football?'

    "Before, I never would go along with them. But this time, for whatever reason, I said, 'OK.' "

    And unlike Moses, Williams at that point was not a reluctant warrior.

    "In other areas, when I get a desire to do something, I might question it," he said. "But in football, I didn't."

    Good thing.

    In just five weeks Williams was starting at cornerback for the Jaguars. Three years later, the Arizona Cardinals made Williams their third-round draft choice, launching an NFL that career that last 14 seasons, saw him named All-Pro five times, appear in eight Pro Bowls and selected to the league's 1990s All-Decade Team. Those are credentials sure to land Williams in Canton as soon as he's eligible.

    Already, he's scheduled for induction in the Cardinals' Ring of Honor this fall.

    But before that, Williams is about to be inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches. He was elected by acclimation in his first year of eligibility.

    "All of this recognition is a tremendous honor," Williams said. "But my goal as a player has always to get myself better individually in order to assist my team getting better as a group."

    That wasn't always easy.

    As Moses did, Williams spent years in the wilderness - namely Arizona where in his 10 seasons the Cardinals lost nearly twice as many games as they lost, making the playoffs only once.

    Traded to St. Louis on draft day in 2001, Williams helped transform one of the league's worst defenses into one of its best.

    The Rams went to Super Bowl XXXVI in the Superdome where they lost to New England, 20-17.

    Williams' play that season...
    -06-14-2008, 05:21 AM
  • ZigZagRam
    SHOCKING: Ricky Williams Retires!
    by ZigZagRam
    Pre-camp decision stuns Dolphins news services
    Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams has told the team he plans to retire after just five NFL seasons, The Miami Herald reported on its Web site early Sunday morning.

    "He wants to get on with his life, wants to move on to bigger and better things," Herald reporter and ESPN commentator Dan Le Betard told SportsCenter.

    According to the Herald's report, Williams wants to travel the world and is tired of the demands and restraints of a professional football career.

    "I just don't want to be in this business anymore," Williams told the paper. "I was never strong enough to not play football, but I'm strong enough now. I've considered everything about this. Everyone has thrown every possible scenario at me about why I shouldn't do this, but they're in denial. I'm happy with my decision.

    "I'm finally free. I can't remember ever being this happy."

    According to Le Batard, the Dolphins are stunned by the news and members of the organization are still trying to talk Williams out of his decision, one the Herald says should be finalized this week when Williams faxes his retirement papers to the league.

    Williams was scheduled to make $3.7 million in each of the 2004 and '05 seasons, and $11.25 million in 2006,'s John Clayton reported.

    Last season, Williams rushed for 1,372 yards on 392 carries, averaging 3.5 yards. He has rushed for 1,000 or more yards in four of his five NFL seasons with the New Orleans Saints and the Dolphins, tallying 6,354 for his career. Williams also had 1,806 receiving yards on 229 catches.

    Williams reportedly tested positive for marijuana on Dec. 10, 2003, and faced a fine of at least $650,000 for violating the league's substance-abuse policy for the second time.

    The Saints traded virtually their 1999 entire draft to move up to No. 5 overall to take Williams, a Heisman Trophy winner at the University of Texas.
    -07-24-2004, 11:30 PM
  • RamWraith
    Williams has happy homecoming
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Sunday, Oct. 14 2007

    When Brandon Williams talks about coming home, he means it literally.

    Williams, a free-agent wide receiver/returner signed by the Rams last week, has
    moved back in with his family in north St. Louis County.

    "We've got a nice-size house, enough room for everybody," Williams said. "So,
    I'm at home."

    Williams is sharing space with his mother, Tammy Davis; brother, Walter Powell,
    15; and sister, Alexis Hodges, 12. Another brother, Michael Williams Jr., 19,
    is a student at the University of Missouri.

    His father, Michael Williams, lives in East St. Louis.

    "We have a good relationship," Brandon said. "He talks to me about life all the
    time. That's very important to me."

    The homecoming for Williams the seventh product of an area high school who
    has wound up with the Rams was almost six years in the making. After a
    standout career at Hazelwood East High, he spent four years at the University
    of Wisconsin and was a third-round draft pick by the San Francisco ***** in

    After averaging 6.7 yards on punt returns as a rookie, Williams was getting 6.4
    yards this year when the 'Niners decided to replace him with veteran Michael
    Lewis. Williams was released Sept. 25, a move that he said stunned him.

    "I really had no idea what was going on," said Williams, 23. "But it happened,
    and like everybody always says, everything happens for a reason. So I guess the
    reason was to come back home."

    And join a winless Rams team wracked by injuries. Though he's had a mere three
    practices with the team, the 5-foot-11, 183-pound Williams is expected to be on
    the game-day roster Sunday in Baltimore.


    Williams was 7 when he started playing football with the Mathews-Dickey
    Bulldogs. Like most youngsters, he tried several positions. But catching the
    ball always came naturally.

    He spent hours working on his skills with his uncle, Terrell Davis, an
    assistant coach at Lincoln University in Jefferson City.

    "I'd have him catch 100 balls a day, run routes, and I introduced him to weight
    lifting," Davis said. "I was trying to get him ready."

    Brandon was willing to put in the effort.

    "He loved football," his mother said, "and he always had a great work ethic."

    Williams' fondness for the sport increased in 1995, when the Rams moved from
    Los Angeles. Williams, then 11, immediately became a devoted fan; his favorites
    were wide receivers Isaac Bruce and, later, Torry Holt.

    A family relationship...
    -10-14-2007, 06:42 AM
  • RamWraith
    Aneas Williams article
    by RamWraith
    Religion today



    CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) During his football career, Aeneas Williams earned a reputation as a quiet leader who professed a deep Christian faith. Behind the eight Pro Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl loss was a man often sought out in the locker room to help put things in perspective.

    Now, the 40-year-old Williams leads a small startup church that meets in rented space at a hotel in suburban St. Louis, where he weaves lessons from life and football into his sermons.

    With football in its most important time the college bowl season is over and the Super Bowl is looming the strong evangelical faith of high-profile players and coaches has been getting attention.

    Florida quarterback Tim Tebow wore a Bible verse on eye black in the Bowl Championship Series title game and thanked Jesus Christ in post-game interviews. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, still alive in the NFL playoffs, has spoken out about his evangelical faith. So has Tony Dungy, who retired this week as coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

    Williams who is ordained but doesn't use the title "reverend" played for the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams as a cornerback and safety before retiring in 2005. He and his wife, Tracy, started Spirit of the Lord Family Church in their home in 2007. Services moved last year to a ballroom at the upscale Crowne Plaza Hotel in Clayton while the 70-member church seeks a permanent home.

    "The hope is that each person who attends has a personal relationship with the Lord that's practical and that they're able to take that relationship and share it with someone else," Williams said.

    Former Rams head coach Mike Martz, now offensive coordinator for the San Francisco *****, wasn't surprised that Williams decided to lead a church.

    "I can't imagine him doing anything else," Martz said. He said many players sought out Williams. Martz said he thinks many were drawn to "his quiet confidence, his unshakability and resolve."

    Martz said he found his conversations with Williams helpful, including one after the Rams lost the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots and began with an 0-5 record in 2002.

    "He's one guy I trust completely to be absolutely honest with me," Martz said.

    "I think what happens, as a head coach when you lose the Super Bowl, you come back and you're so intent on fixing it and going back and winning it, that, you know, I was just not myself. He helped me understand that I was not the same coach or the same person I was in the past." The conversation helped Martz better address how he was interacting with the team, he said.

    During a recent sermon at his nondenominational Christian church, Williams talked about how he didn't want to play...
    -01-14-2009, 04:32 PM