By JOHN INGOLDSBY
NEW YORK, NY July 30, 2014 – A Hall of Fame football career can be a tough act to follow, and finding genuine fulfillment in life’s second act can be even more elusive.
But Aeneas Williams has managed to do just that, and shared his current state of satisfaction in a national conference call Tuesday with the media as he prepares to become a gridiron immortal this Saturday in Canton.
“I want to be true to what I believe God has gifted me to do, and that is to communicate and lead people as a Christian and a pastor – what I am doing now – while also doing work with the League to re-engage and connect with the Legends and former players,” said the sincere Williams.
A man of many talents, it is easy to understand how his ability to communicate may indeed be the equal of his football gifts that he displayed as a defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams.
Just ask the incoming group of NFL rookies who heard the New Orleans native light up the room with a passionate and eloquent speech during their recent Rookie Symposium visit to the Professional Football Hall of Fame.
Or ask any of the countless current and former players who have benefited from listening to him in his active role as an Ambassador for NFL Player Engagement.
“I believe my biggest impact is on their lives now as they raise their children, so I use this opportunity to influence people’s lives for the better, and I am simply giving back to other people what was given to me to make my football career possible,” emphasized Williams.
The most important of those people was Williams’ father, who will be his presenter of the iconic Gold Jacket this Saturday.
“My father was the first of nine children to graduate from college, and inspired our family’s next generation to go to college and become doctors and lawyers,” recalled Williams. “He was a stern disciplinarian who held us accountable, so my two older brothers and I never had to look outside our house for our hero.”
His hero has been handsomely repaid by his son’s Hall of Fame career, since when the elder Williams is now asked how good his son was in the NFL, he simply replies, “He is in the Hall of Fame,” which Aeneas said ends all discussion and debate as to his career.
And what a career it was.
He was a four-time first-team All-Pro, eight-time Pro Bowler, scored 12 defensive touchdowns, led the league in interceptions in 1994, and won the Bart Starr Man of the Year award in 1999.
All this while playing on a Cardinals team that mostly had losing records, but when they finally made the playoffs, he made the most of this opportunity by intercepting Troy Aikman twice to help lead Arizona to an upset win over the Dallas Cowboys.
“When the fans greeted us at the airport after that game, it was electrifying, and justified my desire to stay in Arizona during losing seasons so I could experience the jubilation when we won,” he stated.
Later he was traded to the Rams, where he was greeted by Coach Mike Martz saying, “You will do for the defense, what Marshall Faulk did for the offense.”
High praise from one of the architects of “The Greatest Show on Turf,” which not surprisingly Williams justified with continued All-Pro play, particularly in the postseason.
“I was blessed to be on the Rams during those exciting years, playing for great coaches like Lovie Smith on defense, where I learned to become the thermostat and not the thermometer,” noted Williams, who stayed in St. Louis after his playing days and became his Church’s Pastor.
As a pastor, he is obviously adept at delivering rhetoric, but his talk this weekend will be like no other.
“The speech is done, and I am just fine-tuning now as I cry through it,” he exclaimed. “But it won’t be hard to give since early in my football career I wasn’t even predicted to be here.”