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Williams follows mother's example


With nothing more than determination driven by love, D.J. Williams' mother moved her son and his two older sisters out of a dark situation and into the light.

Now Williams, with the possibility of significant resources at his disposal as an NFL player, wants to help other mothers do the same for their families.

"That's something that I've always wanted to do, to put myself in a position to help kids out that are in the position I was in when I was young," Williams said. "That situation is very tough, and I can only imagine how hard it was for my mother.

"She was a single mother who moved away with nothing, raising three kids and starting from scratch. It blows my mind how she's brought me and my sisters to where we are now."

Williams was in elementary school when his mother, who reportedly had been a victim of domestic violence for years, moved the family out of its Dallas area home.

The family first relocated to a Dallas shelter, but when officials there thought the location could be dangerous, the family moved to Arkansas.

Now, D.J. Williams is on the cusp on being selected in the NFL Draft, fresh off a standout career at the University of Arkansas. Last season, he received the Mackey Award that goes annually to college football's top tight end.

"My background was pretty much like sandpaper. It was really rough," Williams said. "But after that sandpaper wore out, my family came out smooth."

Williams undoubtedly has been shaped by his childhood, but he's embraced the positive parts of his path rather than allowing himself to be swallowed up by the negatives. In addition to the Mackey Award, Williams received the 2010 Disney Spirit Award as college football's most inspirational figure.

"I'm almost thankful for what we went through because now I appreciate all I get in life," he said. "I'm very thankful for what my mother did for me, and almost every time I get to that breaking point, all I have to do is think of her and I can keep going."

Williams' resilience is evident on the field.

His natural pass-catching skills are obvious, with 149 career receptions for 1,831 yards and 10 touchdowns, but his blocking ability is up for debate. At 6-2 and a playing weight of about 235 in college (he's now up to 245), some question his ability to be an effective blocker on the next level.

No one, however, should question his desire.

"That hasn't stopped me yet, and I'm not going to let it stop me," Williams said. "It's the NFL, and everyone has the mentality that, 'I don't care how big I am, I'm going to come knock your head off.'

"If it means going across the middle to catch one and your head almost  comes off after the catch, as long as I catch the ball, I'm ready to do it."

With Williams, however, it isn't just blind ambition. While he could well end up in an H-back position where his receiving skills would be utilized and his blocking responsibilities minimized, he feels like he's ready for anything thanks to Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, a former NFL head coach.

"I think he's prepared me better for the NFL than anybody else could," Williams said of Petrino, who coached the Atlanta Falcons in 2007 before becoming the Razorbacks' head coach. "When Coach Petrino came onto the staff, I was ready to almost give up football, but his approach to the game was completely different, something you can't really understand until you're a part of it.

"He gets the best out of his players. Once I saw the type of man that Coach Petrino is, it became easy to play for him. He pushes you to the absolute limit and then keeps going."

That's much the way Williams lives his life, thanks in no small part to the courage displayed by his mother.


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