Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you I’m obsessed with football. I can tell you how college football works–divisions, conferences, teams, post-season. 11 out of 12 times this season, I correctly predicted the outcome of the games. I even relate many aspects of life, including love and politics, to football. I. Love. Football. More importantly, though, i’m a Hog fan. I’m the guy who always gets front row seats at the student section, who knows all the chants and cheers, and I even know one of the players on the field.
This post goes out to our favorite Razorback, DJ Williams, Arkansas’ starting senior tight end. If you don’t know who that is, I suggest you come out of your hole in the ground. How’d you get internet down there, anyway?
For our non-football friends out there, a tight end is a mix between a lineman and a wide receiver. His importance on the field is twofold: As a lineman, his blocks are necessary to protect the quarterback and to open up holes for the running backs to slip through. On the other hand, especially in Petrino’s pass-happy offense, he provides a safety valve for Mallett as a mid-range target when the opposing defense are busy covering the wide receivers. Exploding onto the scene in his sophomore year, Williams was able to rake in nearly 700 receiving yards. Commentators have since always raved about his “soft hands.” That year, his game-winning catch against ULM sealed his spot early in the season as a crowd favorite.
Williams’ junior year brought on a transformation. Petrino’s offense finally clicked, and a superstar named Ryan Mallett took the snaps. Fans were not seeing the same production out of Williams, who was stepping down with the rise of the big 3 (Childs, Adams, Wright–sound familiar?). The media was informed that Williams was asked to become a better-balanced player. While he had already established himself as a sound receiver, he needed to work on the blocking aspect of his game. Fans, though, assumed that there was some beef between him and Mallett. This misconception fell flat, in a breakout game against South Carolina–coincidentally, it was the one a group of us painted up for (pictured above). So, pretty appropriate.
Williams is on the verge of completing his college career with the tools he needs to succeed on the next level. Recently, DJ was named the Mackey Award recipient, given to the best tight end in college football. To be recognized as the All-SEC first-team tight end is quite a feat in itself, but he took it further and took it to a whole new pond. While the All-America team position was given to Wisconsin’s tight end, Lance Kendrick, Williams somehow managed to snag the Mackey Award for himself.
DJ is a senior and will be graduating soon. Perhaps this will lead to a career in the NFL, where he is considered to be one of the top draft picks for a tight end. An illustrious career in football, though, is not all he leaves to his legacy. This year, he was also the recipient of the Disney Spirit Award, which goes out to the most inspirational figure in college football. His troubled childhood has made him into the person he is today. As a victim of domestic abuse, DJ’s mother decided that she and her three children needed to flee for fear of their own safety. They spent a while at the local shelter before finally making their move to Little Rock. Spending his young life without a father figure, DJ was influenced heavily by seeing his mother struggle but remain faithful in raising their family. DJ also credits his football coaches, first introducing him to football then seeing him develop both as a player and as a person. But above all, DJ does not hesitate to give thanks to God for getting him this far in life. Because of all this, DJ off the field is probably one of the nicest, most down-to-earth and easy-to-get-along-with guys around, and I don’t need the countless news stories online and the feature on ESPN to tell me that anybody who has met him can attest to that. Outside of school and football, DJ continues to give back to the community. He’s given countless hours to volunteer work, and even taking his time to sit down next to and striking up a conversation with a stranger in hopes of brightening their day (if he’s not already talking the heads off some professor or masquerading around with his friends at the basketball games). If you’re not convinced of how great he or his magnetic personality are, check out this article. Or this one. Or this one.
So, what a fitting end to the perfect fairy tale. Our hero has overcome adversity to develop into a figure that everybody in the community can look up to. His excellence as a human being is reflected by his outstanding performance on the football field and his admirable character off the field. His trip to Orlando to accept his awards gave him the opportunity to treat his family to Disney World, something he never got to enjoy as a kid. His hard work has paid off, and he’s gotten to bask under the national spotlight without asking for it. He even got to meet Princess Jasmine, which was apparently hands-down the best part of his trip. Well, our hats are off to you, DJ Williams. You’ve made us proud.
P.S. Ironically, I met DJ on the basketball court through a friend of a friend. We were both on the same intramural basketball team together, which was short-lived as Coach Petrino became furious when he found out (I guess DJ wasn’t allowed to play intramurals?). Regardless, he continued to come to the games if only as a spectator, cheering us on despite our consecutive losses. Throughout the school year, I often saw him on campus, especially during his frequent visits to the architecture building… which might have had to do with a girl that he liked. Sometimes I bring up DJ, and people are surprised I know him personally. Frankly, I’m more surprised that they don’t know him either.