How family and football helped save Connor Williams

NCAA Football, NFL Draft


Connor Williams is about to hear his name called in the 2018 NFL Draft and he’s overcome a lot in his life with the help of his family to get to this point.

Connor Williams didn’t feel confident enough to speak until he was four-years-old because of a speech impediment, and now the Texas Longhorns offensive lineman is letting his play do the talking for him.

It’s the adversity Williams faced as a youth and middle schooler that helped him become the person and the football player he is today. Williams went from an overweight kid with a speech impediment to one of the best offensive linemen in the draft.

None of that, however, would have been possible without his family supporting him at every step of his journey.

“It was hard and something none of us had gone through. It wasn’t about what was happening, it was about overcoming the adversity and working with my family. Whether it was throwing the football with my brother, going to the movie with my dad or hanging with the family on the weekends. I used them as the backbone to help me and build me and make me become the man I was, and without them, I would have been lost.”

Thankfully, Williams had an incredible support system to help set the foundation for him at a young age to mold him into the person he is today. His father took him to the movies for quality one-on-one time and was there with him when he decided he was ready to make a change from a young overweight kid. Williams’ father built a gym in the family garage that helped transform his body with the help of 5:30 a.m. P90X workout sessions.

“I can’t pinpoint one exact moment. It’s been a lifetime of supporting me and giving me all the tools I needed to succeed in life,” Williams said when asked why his dad is his hero. “It was the 5:30 am workouts, driving me to practice and being at every game in the stands and be able to look up and see him and know he was looking at me and I was making him proud.”

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MARCH 01: Texas offensive lineman Connor Williams answers questions at the NFL Combine (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Those movie nights together and the mornings remade Williams’ body and gave him a laser-focus on football. His older brother Dalton was a star quarterback and he grew up watching him excel on the field.

He knew he was going to follow in his footsteps and it required a lot of patience, a lot of hard work and a lot of belief in himself to block out the bullies who tormented him.

Williams is very much a walking example of “it gets better” but there were times he wasn’t sure if it would. His advice to someone who is being bullied is to remember that it will get better and to go through that adversity will help you later in life.

“I remember the frustration of people telling me it’s going to get better. It’s gonna change. You want it to change right then, right now. But they’re right. Four years ago, I didn’t even have a college offer and now I’m sitting where I am now. It’s amazing and humbling and you’ll be thankful you’ve gone through that experience and grow as a person.”

Williams began his high school career at Coppell High School as a tight end. After an injury to one of the starting offensive tackles, Williams made the position switch that would prove his way to Austin and later the NFL.

He was a high school teammate of former Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas, who was the No. 3 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. He won the first round but got a wake-up call when Thomas won the next. It could have been that moment that Williams saw what it takes to be a successful player and earn a scholarship offer.

Things took off from there for Williams who went from zero offers to about 40 offers, including one to his dream school, The University of Texas. Williams was a success right away on the 40 Acres, earning Freshman All-American honors. He followed that up with a consensus All-American season as a sophomore. It was then that Williams dream of playing in the NFL went from a dream to a reality.

“It slowly gradually came upon me at the end of my sophomore year that this could be a possibility. Of course, this has been a dream and this has been something that many people don’t get to do and now that it’s a possibility is surreal.”

Through the adversity he faced as a youth battling through his speech impediment and being overweight to achieving stardom on the high school football field to starring at Texas, Williams is a testament to how hard work always pays off. He believes the life lessons he’s learned on the gridiron and off the field have prepared him for his next chapter in the NFL.

AUSTIN, TX – NOVEMBER 24: Connor Williams #55 of the Texas Longhorns (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

“I believe so,” Williams said when asked if he’s ready for what the NFL throws him. “And I think that’s true with most football players. Football teaches you life and how to overcome adversity. Whether it’s in a game and you’re down or it’s in practice and you’re struggling to get through that practice. Whether you started as a kid or high school, football teaches you a lot, so naturally, it prepares you.”

While football has prepared Williams for his next chapter in the NFL, it was his work in the classroom that also helped him. William’s college coach, Tom Herman raves about Williams the football player with quick feet, impressive strength, great athleticism and agility, but he also mentions how smart he is on and off the field.

Herman calls Williams “brilliant” and a standout student in the McCombs School of Business, one of the top business schools in the nation. On top of his football responsibilities and obligations, Williams never lost sight of the focus on his academics.

“Going into Texas, it was always about academics, getting my degree and pursuing and excelling in the business school, so it’s always been about school to me. I am going to finish my degree in finance with a focus in investment management. One day, football is going to have put on the shelf and you’re going to have to transition from football into the real world.”

When he’s not working on his game, studying in the classroom or spending time with his family, he’s watching Schitt’s Creek on Netflix, which he thinks is right up there with The Office and cites Remember the Titans as his favorite football movie.

And to the team that drafts Williams, he has a message to all their fans who wonder what type of player and person they’ll have.

“They’ll know what they’re getting because I’ll be showing up the next day with an eager, open mind ready to start from the bottom and work my way to be able to help the team. Not a day goes by I’m not going to put forth 100 percent effort.”

Connor Williams didn’t speak until he was four until he got the confidence and the support from his family and later from football and now it’s his game and his character that speaks volumes.

*****

Williams joined me on behalf of Hyundai as he’s working with their Rolling with The Rookies feature this year. He got to design a car with the help of cleat designer Marcus Rivera. This allowed Williams the opportunity to return to his hometown and get away from the football side of things and focus on the people and the places that helped mold him into the person he is today.

“It’s been an amazing opportunity,” Williams said about working with Hyundai: Rolling with The Rookies. “The idea is to get away from all the numbers you see at the combine and get away from football and be able to get back to your hometown. Rolling with the Rookies is about following you back to your hometown and the people who raised you and how you became who you are in your journey to where you are now.”

“I got to design a car that will be on display at the Draft. a new Hyundai Kona, Marcus Rivera, cleat designer helped me design it. The main idea behind the design was part of my backstory of how I got through the adversity I’ve gone through. The backbone of it was my family and the theme of the car is “building blocks.” The bricks that my family put down and the foundation I was able to walk on that they were able to help me through my life and make me become a stronger person.”

For more information: Rolling With The Rookies | Hyundai

The Rolling with The Rookies series also features Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen and LSU running back Derrius Guice.



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