DJ Williams nominated for Courage Award

Written by Will Spencer on September 24, 2009

DJ Williams

TE – Arkansas


After the incredible story of Ole Miss (and now Baltimore Ravens) offensive tackle Michael Oher, the 2010 NFL Draft may have another similar background story…that is if Arkansas TE DJ Williams (JR) decides to declare for the draft. Fearing that I won’t be able to due Williams’ story justice by providing my own summary, here is the official release from the FWAA.

From the Football Writers Association of America

DALLAS (FWAA) – Arkansas’ D.J. Williams is the first weekly nominee for the 2009 FedEx Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award, to be announced at the end of the season. Williams, a junior tight end from Little Rock, Ark., has overcome a childhood dominated by an abusive, drug-addicted father to excel in the classroom, the community and on the field.

Williams’ father, David Williams, is currently serving time in a Texas prison. But D.J. Williams’ early memories are of fearing a father who, beset by depression and hooked on crack cocaine, regularly beat and abused his mother.

“I feared for my mother’s life,” Vanessa Williams, D.J.’s older sister, recently told “If we hadn’t gotten out of there, she probably wouldn’t have made it.”

Ten years ago this month, Vicky Williams took Vanessa, Valerie and D.J. and fled their home in a Dallas suburb. When officials at a local shelter for battered women suggested they leave the state, Vicky showed D.J. a map and asked the 11-year-old where he wanted to go. He chose Little Rock, where they lived in a shelter for battered women for several months, but have made a new life.

Williams was an all-SEC selection and a Mackey Award semifinalist in 2008, when he led the Razorbacks in catches, receiving yards and touchdown catches. He’s expected to be a key cog in Bobby Petrino’s upgraded passing attack.

He’s one of the football program’s best students, and has taken on leadership roles in community service and other areas.

“When things get tough for me, whether it’s on the football field or anywhere else, I just think about what my mom’s gone through and the great things football has brought me,” Williams told “Hopefully, I’ll be able to give back to her and give back to others. I want moms and kids out there who are going through what we went through to know that there is a way out.”

“Look at us. We’ve come from living in a shelter and wearing hand-me-down clothes to me standing in front of 80,000-plus almost every Saturday just to watch me play football. Even when you think all hope is lost, dreams do come true.”

For the fourth straight year, the Football Writers Association of America and the FedEx Orange Bowl will announce a weekly nominee each Wednesday during the season. A blue-ribbon panel will determine the winner from all of the nominees. The winner of the FedEx Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award will be announced in December and be presented with the trophy.

The Courage Award was created by ESPN The Magazine’s senior writer Gene Wojciechowski, also a FWAA member. A select group of writers from the FWAA vote on the winner each year. The requirements for nomination include displaying courage on or off the field, including overcoming an injury or physical handicap, preventing a disaster or living through hardship.

Previous winners of the FWAA’s Courage Award are Tulsa’s Wilson Holloway (2008), Navy’s Zerbin Singleton (2007), Clemson’s Ray Ray McElrathbey (2006), the Tulane football team (2005), Memphis’ Haracio Colen (2004), San Jose State’s Neil Parry (2003) and Toledo’s William Bratton (2002).

Will Spencer

Will is the founder and President of Draft Breakdown & has been scouting draft prospects since 2002. His work has been featured in numerous publications, including the USA Today Draft Preview Magazine, the official website of the Baltimore Ravens, Ravens Insider and The Orange and Brown Report. Will has previous playing experience as a defensive end in the AFA, is currently a member of the Football Writers Association of America and graduated from the SMWW Football Scouting course in 2009.

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