NFL Legend Andre Williams Had to Convince His Mom to Let Him Play
Welcome to Why We Play, a series of discussions with current players and NFL Legends about their youth football experience and why they play the game.
A scary childhood injury almost ended Andre Williams' career before it started.
Williams, a 2013 Heisman Trophy finalist and former NFL running back, was badly hurt in an accident when he was two years old. He was out shopping with his mother and older brother when he got away, ran into the street and got hit by a car.
"I still remember a helicopter had to come and pick me up," Williams said. "I remember it being a red helicopter and it landing in the field. And I was on this big stretcher being wheeled into the hospital and had tubes in me where there shouldn’t be tubes. I still have vivid memories of it."
Doctors told his mother he had suffered a head injury and that there could be brain damage. Fortunately, Williams was OK — but later, when he wanted to take after his older brother and play football, his mom became worried he might reinjure himself.
"My older brother Ervin is the one who inspired me to play," Williams said. "I was doing the karate thing, and I told him how I just had a sparring match and how it was a real tough session. He said, ‘I bet you it wasn’t as hard as my football practice.’ After that I kind of wanted to see what football was all about.
“My first year, in sixth grade, we didn’t win much at all. I’m not sure we won a game, maybe one. But I was really good at it. One of the coaches actually told me, ‘Dre, you have a lot of raw talent. I would advise you to keep playing this sport, because it could take you somewhere.’"
But after that first season, Williams' mother pulled him from the team, worried he might reinjure his head. It took Williams' other brother, his younger brother Kareem, starting to play to convince his mom to let him have a second chance.
"Since Kareem started playing, she had to let me play," Williams said. “When I came back in eighth grade, I was the star (of the team). I knew then if I stuck with it I could go places."
And go places he did. Williams starred at Parkland High School in Allentown, Pennsylvania before heading to Boston College on a scholarship. As a senior for the Eagles, Williams dominated, registering 2,177 yards and 18 TDs on the ground and finishing fourth in Heisman voting.
Williams was drafted 113th overall by the New York Giants in the 2014 NFL Draft. Williams' rookie season was his most productive in the league — he ran for 721 yards and 7 TDs, and added 130 yards receiving.
As a teenager, Williams said football was one of the constants that helped ground him. After growing up in New Jersey, Williams moved with his family to Georgia for his first two years of high school, then back north to Pennsylvania for his final two years of high school.
"I was moving around a lot and sports kept me on a path to success," Williams said. "If you want to play football, you had to keep your grades up or you couldn’t play. So, for me, it was simple. Just go to class and learn and you can play."
Williams was also able to learn a thing or two in those classes. Now in his post-playing days, Williams is a poet, a patent holder, and runs two businesses.
"I learned to just focus on what you want, even if it’s hard, and work at it," Williams said. "Hard work is going to get you want you want later, on and off the field."
Photo: AP/Scott Boehm
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