Doug Williams was born on August 9, 1955 to parents Robert and Laura Williams in Zachary, Louisiana. Williams the sixth of eight children, they grew up in poor conditions in the integrated south. Around the age of seven Williams began playing football, baseball and basketball, but football became his ticket to fame. In 1973 as a senior at Caneyville High School Williams had an impressive season as the quarterback for his high school team. He passed for 1,180 yards and twenty-two touchdowns which were outstanding statics for a high school quarterback. Despite his excellence he was greatly overlooked when it came to the college recruiting process, he was only recruited by Southern University and Grambling state University; two schools located in Louisiana. Grambling State was coached by the legendary Eddie Robinson at the time; Coach Robinson impressed Doug Williams so much that he chose to attend Grambling State and his life changed for the better. The fall of 1973 Doug Williams became a freshman at Grambling State and faced a challenge right away being asked to red-shirt (sit out) his first year.
The beginning of his sophomore year, Williams was no longer a red-shirt player but he was not earning playing time either. He was listed third out of three quarterbacks on the teams depth chart, and once again he tried to quit the team. Williams was blessed with a lucky break, during the time of his attempt to quit the team the starting quarterback was injured and Williams went from number three to number two. Williams’ movement up the depth chart sparked a fire deep within him to give more effort. During practice Williams started to show his brilliance, he showed why Grambling State made a great choice in recruiting him. Williams worked his way into the starting lineup and never looked back. Over the next three years Williams would prove to be a great quarterback. He led Grambling to a Southwestern Athletic conference championship, won 35 of 40 games, named first-team All-American by the associated press, finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy race, compiled 8,411 passing yards with 93 touchdowns.
He also graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in health and physical education. In 1978 Williams attended the National Football League’s draft and was selected as the 17th overall player by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Williams started training camp late because of contractual issues, but despite his late arrival he was able to win the starting job as the quarterback. Through the first eight games he played of his rookie season he led his team to a 4-4 record, suffered a broken jaw and still was named to the NFL’s All-Rookie team. 1979 his second year, Williams led his team to a 10-6 record and a playoff appearance leading them to the conference championship game. In 1980 his team regressed with a 5-11 record but Williams produced his best statistical season, in 1981 he lead his team back to the playoffs but were defeated by the Dallas Cowboys.
Late in 1982 Williams’ life took a turn for the worst, his initial playing contract was expired and he and the Buccaneers began negations, Williams was expecting a raise in pay because of his brilliant performances. During contract negotiations Williams’ wife began to experience severe headaches, she received a CAT scan and it was revealed that she had a brain tumor. His wife underwent surgery to remove the tumor but died in the hospital a week later. The death of his wife hurt Williams deeply, so much that he moved back to Zachary, Louisiana with his father. While living with his father he faced another challenge, his father’s health started failing him and both of his legs were amputated; also his contract negotiations with the Buccaneers failed and he had no job. After contract negotiations failed he was offered a contract by a startup football league the United States Football League. Williams signed the contract and began playing football again. Williams was the quarterback for the Oklahoma Outlaws and once again showed his brilliance, but looming in his future was more turmoil. The USFL was going bankrupt and eventually folded, Williams wanted desperately to rejoin the NFL and unsure about his future accepted a coaching job at Grambling State. Shortly after beginning as a coach Williams received a call from Coach Joe Gibbs, Head Coach of the Washington Redskins offering him a contract which he signed quickly. He began as a backup quarterback for the team, but received playing time throughout the season after the injury of the team’s starting quarterback. During the final game of the season Williams played exceptionally well and was named the starting quarterback for the playoffs. Williams played like a man possessed and led his team to two victories and a Super Bowl appearance against the Denver Broncos.
Williams became the first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl, but this game he was overshadowed by the legendary John Elway who was considered the prototypical quarterback. Williams already faced adversity when he underwent a root canal for a tooth problem the night before the game. During the first quarter Williams twisted his knee and it seemed as if it was over for him. Williams returned to the game leading his team to a 42-10 rout of the Denver Broncos, and threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns setting Super Bowl records. He also set the record for the longest pass with an 80 yard touchdown pass. Williams threw for 228 yards in one quarter alone. Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to start and win the Super Bowl; he also became the first black quarterback to win Super Bowl MVP.
During the offseason Williams and his fellow Grambling Alumni set up the Doug Williams foundation. The foundation was dedicated to keeping children in school and away from drugs. Also in the off-season, Williams signed a contract worth $3.3 million over three years and named the starting quarterback of the Redskins for the 1988 season. During the beginning of the season he suffered appendicitis and lost his starting job. During the 1989 season, he found out that he had a disc in his back was pressing against his sciatic nerve. He had surgery and lost the strength he initially had, later in the same year his father died from a bout with pneumonia. At the midpoint of the 1989 season Williams was benched and did not start for the rest of the 1989 season, and was later released by the team. In 1998 Williams became the Head Coach of Grambling State University replacing the legendary Eddie Robinson, the very man who taught him how to win. He went on to become a successful football coach and remains an inspiration to young black quarterbacks all over America. Doug Williams help pave the way for the black quarterbacks in the NFL today. Black quarterbacks were thought of as not smart enough to win the “big game”, but because of the dominance of Williams we now have two black quarterbacks to start, win, and dominate the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. Doug Williams, we stand on your shoulders.
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