Arkansas’ D.J. Williams is a terrific player and one of the best pass-catching tight ends in college football.
But those of us who’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Williams off the field also know that football hardly defines who he is.
Williams is a study in courage, and the same goes for his mother, Vicky, and his two sisters, Vanessa and Valerie.
Together they overcame the kind ordeal nobody should have to endure and made it through to see happier days again thanks to their faith, their strength and an unbreakable bond that was put to the ultimate test.
As a young kid, a helpless Williams watched in horror as his drug-addicted father beat and abused his mother. Finally, they were able to break away when Williams was only 11 and started their lives over again in Little Rock, Ark.
They openly tell their story now with the hope that they might help other families facing a similar crisis.
I’ve heard Williams and his mother say several times that if they can just help one family break away from an abusive situation by sharing their story then it will all be worth it.
Williams on Monday was named as this year’s recipient of the Disney Spirit Award, which is given annually by Disney Sports to college football’s most inspirational figure.
I can’t think of a more deserving recipient, and as Williams said when the award was announced, he accepts it on behalf of his mother, his sisters and the entire Razorback family.
“Watching my mother, who never quit, is the inspiration for me each day and a lesson for us all,” said Williams, the NCAA's active leader in catches (140) and yards (1,719) by a tight end. “My hope is the story of my family will show those who are experiencing a similar ordeal that they are not alone and there is help and a way out. To be recognized by Disney Sports and to join the list of recipients of this award is humbling and a blessing I'll share with my family.”
From participation in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program, to the local Boys & Girls Clubs and Children's hospital, Williams has demonstrated he has a big heart and a passion for giving back to his community. He has used his stature as a prominent college football player to raise awareness and inspire others to abandon troubled relationships and seek help.
Mark Herzlich, the 2009 Disney Spirit Award winner, will serve as the award's presenter along with Disney Sports executive Faron Kelley during The Home Depot College Football Awards at Walt Disney World Resort on Thursday, Dec. 9. The 20th annual awards show is scheduled for 7-9 p.m. ET and will be televised live on ESPN.