St. Louis Rams: Aeneas Williams

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Aeneas Williams spent the majority of his Hall of Fame career in relative anonymity at cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals.

But Williams' impact on the St. Louis Rams at the end of his career left a lasting impression on the team and its fans. It's an impact that is still felt in the St. Louis community where Williams makes his home today and serves as a pastor at a local church.

So while Cardinals fans had every reason to bask in the glow and celebrate Williams' induction into the Hall of Fame on Saturday night, there was another fan base in St. Louis also cheering Williams.

With that in mind, I wanted to begin today's Ram-blings with links to some stories and words about Williams.

First, I only had the privilege to cover Williams for one season, an injury plagued eason that would be his last in the NFL. But I will echo the sentiments of anyone who ever had the privilege to cover him: Williams is the class act of all class acts. It's almost cliche to say someone is a better man than he was a player, but if cliches exist because they are true, Williams is the very definition of why that particular cliche exists. Every plaudit, every kind word you have read about Williams before and today is 100 percent genuine. Congratulations, Aeneas.

On to the links:

Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss offers this profile of Williams as he heads to Canton.

Weinfuss discusses Williams becoming the first Cardinal who played the bulk of his career in Arizona to go into the Hall of Fame.

Stltoday.com's Bernie Miklasz offers his memories of Williams.

Jim Thomas explores Williams' impact on the Rams defenses of the early 2000s.

And another from baseball writer Derrick Goold on Williams' impact on his hometown of New Orleans.

FoxSportsMidwest.com writes that Williams is the epitome of a Hall of Famer.

The Times-Picayune, Williams' hometown paper, takes us through Williams' spiritual journey to the Hall of Fame.

There are many more great Williams tributes to be read out there, too many to list here. But just know that you won't find a bad word about him. And though it might be hard to believe, just know that there aren't because there simply aren't any that would be true.

I.C.Y.M.I.

A roundup of Saturday's Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com. ... In the Ram-blings, we began the day with a look at fivethirtyeight.com's study on the correlation between youth and success in the NFL. ... Next, we previewed Saturday's practice and scrimmage at the Rams' annual fanfest. ... Finally, we closed the day with a full report from the scrimmage with notes on players working back from injury and players dealing with new ailments of their own.

Elsewhere:

Also at stltoday.com, rookie linebacker Aaron Hill provides his weekly update on his progress as he tries to make the roster.

Joe Lyons provides his report on Saturday's scrimmage.

At 101sports.com, coach Rick Venturi explains why the Rams' defense could be tough to stop in 2014.

Scout.com's Nate Latsch discusses the progress of receiver Brian Quick a week into camp.
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Pastor Aeneas Williams stood in front of a congregation unlike any other he has spoken to before, inside a sanctuary that has defined his life, and he expounded about a religion whose followers are as devout as any other.

It wasn’t a Sunday morning in his St. Louis church. It was a Saturday night in Canton, Ohio.

In front of thousands of football fans -- his congregants -- who gathered in a small, Northeast Ohio town to pay tribute to a sport’s cathedral, Williams preached about football, faith and family during his Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement speech.

For 25 minutes, the devout Christian pontificated about the Church of Football.

It was everything you'd expect from Williams, who spent 10 of his 14 seasons with the Arizona Cardinals and the last four with the St. Louis Rams. He was thankful and humbled. He addressed hot-button issues, and he showed that the fire hasn't disappeared 10 years after he last played. And it was all done with a flair only those accustomed to speaking in front of the masses can provide. He promised he'd cry, but only sweat dripped down his cheeks. His impassioned speech had two themes, both of which he has tried to live in his life: "Begin with the end in mind and die empty." He tried to stay away from the morbid, but he pointed out that he was inductee No. 287 and his last name put him on the bottom of every list of this year’s inductees -- a symbol for his road to the Hall.

He started at the beginning of his football life, which began in a park in New Orleans, and went through his journey to the Hall of Fame, which didn't truly begin until a week before the season began at Southern University. It was then that Williams decided to walk on. Although, as he explained, nothing came easy to him -- speed, winning in Arizona, his acceptance into the Hall of Fame -- Williams was a natural talent whose dedication helped him become great. He thanked Gill Byrd, the former San Diego cornerback, whose help Williams solicited. But after spending time with Byrd and his wife, Williams didn’t become just a better cornerback. He credited Byrd for teaching him how to be a good husband and father while playing in the NFL.

As to be expected from a Williams speech, faith played a large part.

He talked about taking signs from God as early as his childhood, when Williams, as a running back in the 95-pound league, was crushed by a 110-pound player. It was then that Williams switched to defense. He also said his faith helped lead him to walk on at Southern.

Williams' competitive edge shined bright throughout his speech. It was obvious he still basks in having shut down Michael Irvin in the 1999 playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys, the same one the Cardinals won in an upset. Williams joked that he was covering Irvin so closely that if Irvin went to the bathroom, "I had to go flush it."

His speech began by supporting NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for having to make tough decisions so the game could continue. He joked about getting a middle finger salute from an entire section of New York Giants fans when he'd come out for warm-ups at old Giants Stadium. He noted that his former defensive backs coach, Rob Ryan, put him on Aeneas Island long before Revis Island was discovered. Williams said his work ethic was established in the aisles of the Superdome, where he sold popcorn, peanuts and soda as a kid.

By the time Williams finished, he still hadn't cried, but he was leading the stadium of fans in chants and cheers. Williams looked comfortable on a pulpit, behind a lectern, talking with his hands, preaching the gospel of football.

He looked at home in the Hall of Fame.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- This morning, we're going to start with something a little different in these here Ram-blings. We've spent plenty of time discussing the draft, free agency, Michael Sam, Gregg Williams and so much more.

We're going to step away from that for right now and go in a different direction. When former St. Louis Rams safety Aeneas Williams made the cut for the Pro Football Hall of Fame a couple weeks ago, I wrote about how Williams was one of the classiest and most insightful players I've been around in my decade covering the NFL.

On Thursday afternoon, ESPN columnist Jason Whitlock welcomed Williams into his "Real Talk" podcast for a 35-plus minute conversation spanning a variety of topics. What ensued from there is a discussion that I can't recommend enough. As usual, Williams' passion shines through and Whitlock drives the chat in a compelling way.

I won't add much here other than to again offer a hearty endorsement of taking about a half hour out of your day to give it a listen.

I.C.Y.M.I.

A roundup of Thursday's Rams stories appearing on ESPN.com. ... In the Ram-blings, we talked about the possibilities of the Rams drafting an offensive lineman early in this year's draft. ... Next, we offered a tidbit on the Rams keeping season ticket prices the same in 2014. ... From there, we were all over the Gregg Williams news conference with a news story breaking down the timeline of his hire and a reaction piece on the way winning can cure all. ... Finally, we offered the takes and opinions of coach Jeff Fisher and linebacker James Laurinaitis on how Sam would fit in with the Rams and the NFL.

Chat: Have questions about the Rams? I'll be chatting today at 1 p.m. ET and you can submit questions here now. Hope to see you there.

Elsewhere:

Meant to get to this earlier in the week but anytime Elizabeth Merrill writes, it's worth reading. This piece on how Missouri handled the Michael Sam situation.

Likewise on this piece from Seth Wickersham on the final season of Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez.

At stltoday.com, the discussion of Gregg Williams was plentiful:

Columnist Bernie Miklasz writes that NFC West opponents will have a long memory when it comes to the bounty scandal.

Miklasz also says that Williams is needed for the Rams to take the next step.

Jeff Gordon writes that Williams is back to finish what he started.

At FoxSportsMidwest.com, Nate Latsch says Williams' return was all about winning.

 

 
Aenes WilliamsAndy Lyons/Getty ImagesAeneas Williams spent 10 years in Arizona, but made an impression in four seasons with the Rams.

ST. LOUIS -- The prime of Aeneas Williams' career was spent with the Arizona Cardinals and that is the place where he is most remembered for his many accomplishments. But Williams spent the final four seasons of his career as a member of the St. Louis Rams.

Upon arrival in St. Louis, Williams moved to free safety and hardly missed a beat. Williams was first team All Pro in 2001 and went to the Pro Bowl in 2001 and 2003. Many will remember him as a Cardinal but for fans of the Rams and in St. Louis, Williams' legacy goes far beyond his short stint playing for the Rams.

Williams was one of the most beloved players on the roster during his four seasons in St. Louis and is still revered around the city. The statement from Rams COO Kevin Demoff sent out Saturday night succinctly summed up how Williams is viewed by the Rams and their fans.

“On behalf of the St. Louis Rams, I’d like to congratulate Aeneas on this well-deserved honor," Demoff said. "Aeneas’s four seasons in a Rams uniform capped off his Hall of Fame career, playing a key role in helping the club reach the franchise’s third Super Bowl. While his play alone earned him this honor, Aeneas is also a Hall of Fame person. He remains extremely active in the St. Louis community and the Rams are grateful for the way he continues to contribute to our city and our organization.”

There's little doubt that Williams' work on the field was Hall of Fame worthy. His 55 interceptions, 23 fumble recoveries and 12 defensive touchdowns speak for themselves. We could dig into all of the numbers here but there's no denying that the body of work is Hall of Fame worthy.

What isn't taken into account in Hall of Fame discussions is character and personality. In those terms, Williams seemed to be born a Hall of Famer. I was only able to cover Williams for one year, his final NFL season in 2004, but he remains one of the classiest players I've been around in my decade covering the team.

Much of that final season was injury-plagued and Williams appeared in 13 games in the only season of his 14-year career in which he didn't come up with at least one interception. While his career was winding down, Williams never seemed to let it effect his professional approach. Week after week, Williams would answer any and all questions.

Even with his skills declining, Williams never made excuses and was incredibly influential for young defensive backs such as Travis Fisher and Jerametrius Butler as the Rams made a run to the playoffs, the only one they've had in the past 10 years.

When the season was over, Williams quietly faded into the background, never so much as announcing his retirement. Every time I saw him after that, he looked like he could still play.

That's right, Williams is still easily seen around these parts. He and his wife founded the Spirit Church in town, where Williams serves as pastor. The family is involved in plenty of philanthropic endeavors around the area as well.

Williams also serves as a sort of unofficial mentor for the Rams, a way for him to stay around the game while also working to help young people. Williams has been a consistently positive influence for Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins, for example.

Unlike baseball, the Pro Football Hall of Fame does not have team affiliations on player busts nor require them to declare a team as the one with which he's most closely associated.

If it did, Williams would almost certainly go in as a Cardinal after spending 10 years in Arizona. But that doesn't mean the Rams and St. Louis have any reason to not count him as one of their own.

Williams is an adopted son of St. Louis and Rams fans. Now, the Pro Football Hall of Fame should be proud to do the same.

Three former Rams are Hall finalists

January, 10, 2014
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ST. LOUIS -- For the second consecutive year, a trio of former Rams has landed spots as modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Greene
Defensive back Aeneas Williams, running back Jerome Bettis and linebacker Kevin Greene made the list of 15, which was whittled from 25.

Williams, Bettis and Greene spent varying parts of their careers with the Rams. While none are exactly remembered in the big picture for their time with the team, all made valuable contributions to the organization at some point.

Probably the most familiar to Rams fans is Williams, who came to St. Louis via trade in 2001. He promptly moved to safety and served as a veteran leader of a defense that helped the Rams reach Super Bowl XXXVI. Williams still lives in St. Louis and is active in the community. He spent most of his career in relative anonymity in Arizona but was long regarded as one of the team's best cover corners. His time is probably coming in Canton, but this year might not be it.

Bettis spent just one season in St. Louis after his first two came with the team in Los Angeles. He was traded to Pittsburgh in 1996 and went on to become the sixth-most accomplished rusher in league history. Of this group, Bettis probably has the best chance to break through this season.

Greene never played a down for the St. Louis version of the Rams, but he played for the Los Angeles edition from 1985 to 1992. Greene also has local ties as he hails from nearby Granite City, Ill. Like Bettis, Greene is probably more renowned for his time with the Steelers. He finished with 160 sacks, which ranked third all-time at the time of his retirement. Much like Williams, Greene will probably have his day, but it might not happen right away.

The competition to make it to Canton this year figures to be difficult. First-ballot candidates such as Seattle offensive tackle Walter Jones, Indianapolis wide receiver Marvin Harrison and Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks look to have strong cases to earn a nod this year. Giants end Michael Strahan, defensive end Charles Haley, Buffalo receiver Andre Reed and guard Will Shields are among the others with a shot to get in.

This year's crop of Rams candidates will pale in comparison to what the team figures to have in the next couple of years. Receiver Isaac Bruce, tackle Orlando Pace and quarterback Kurt Warner are due for Hall of Fame eligibility for the class of 2015, followed by receiver Torry Holt in 2016.

Three former Rams up for Hall induction

November, 21, 2013
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the 25 semifinalists for induction in 2014 on Wednesday night and three former Rams made the cut.

Defensive back Aeneas Williams, running back Jerome Bettis and linebacker Kevin Greene made the list of 25, which was whittled from 126. Williams, Bettis and Greene spent varying parts of their careers with the Rams. While none are exactly remembered in the big picture for their time with the team, all made valuable contributions to the organization at some point.

Williams, Bettis and Greene all made the cut to the list of 15 modern-era finalists last year which could portend possible inductions this year. They'll receive tough competition from some of the new additions to the ballot, a list that includes receiver Marvin Harrison, tackle Walter Jones, coach Tony Dungy and linebacker Derrick Brooks.

Williams is probably the most familiar to Rams fans after he came to St. Louis in a trade in 2001. He promptly moved to safety and served as a veteran leader of a defense which helped the Rams reach Super Bowl XXXVI. Williams still lives in St. Louis and is active in the community. He spent most of his career in relative anonymity in Arizona but was long regarded as one of the team's best cover corners. His time is probably coming in Canton but it seems this year may not be the one.

Bettis spent just one season in St. Louis after his first two came with the team in Los Angeles. He was traded to Pittsburgh in 1996 and went on to become the fifth most accomplished rusher in league history. Of this group, Bettis probably has the best chance to break through this season.

Greene never played a down for the St. Louis version of the Rams but he played for the Los Angeles edition from 1985-1992. Greene also has local ties as he hails from nearby Granite City, Ill. Like Bettis, Greene is probably more renowned for his time with the Steelers. He finished with 160 sacks, which ranked third all time at the time of his retirement. Much like Williams, Greene's day is probably going to come but it may not happen right away.

Two other semifinalists have St. Louis area ties. Coach Don Coryell, one of the most innovative offensive minds in league history, coached the St. Louis Cardinals from 1973-77. Safety Steve Atwater made his name with Denver but is a native of St. Louis and played high school ball at Lutheran North.

For Rams fans looking for further connections to possible Hall of Fame inductees, the real fun will begin next year. Receiver Isaac Bruce, tackle Orlando Pace and quarterback Kurt Warner are due for Hall of Fame eligibility for the class of 2015 followed by receiver Torry Holt the following year.

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