Many people learn at a young age that if you really wanted to be successful in life, you’d have to learn how to make lemonade out of lemons.
But in the case of DJ Williams, TE of the Patriots, he along with his family learned at a very young age while growing up in an abusive home, just how important that lesson can be.
DJ Williams was born in Fort Worth, Texas and considered one of the top TE in the 2011 draft coming out of Arkansas.
Growing up, Williams’ father, David, was physically and mentally abusive towards the family along with being addicted to crack cocaine.
In a pre-draft interview, Williams described an emotional event that lead to him having suicidal thoughts at the tender age of 11:
“It was my birthday and my dad and I were supposed to go fishing. But we stopped in the middle of nowhere and he puts a gun in my lap and tells me ‘if anyone tries to come in, pull the trigger.’ It was the first time in my life I really thought about everything that had happened to me and I didn’t want to go through what the next 11 years may hold. So I thought about turning the gun on myself and pulling the trigger.”
When Williams got home that night, he told his mother what had happened with his father’s gun and this was her wakeup call to get her children, and herself, out of the situation.
A week after the family arrived at a Dallas shelter, David shot a man 8 eight times and became a fugitive. While David was subsequently sentenced to prison, the family felt forced to move out of the state prior to his trial.
“I pointed to a spot on the map and it was Little Rock, Arkansas” Williams said in his interview with E:60. (see below for interview)
Once in Arkansas, Williams used his mother as his role model to become the star player on his high school football team who would go on to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks, earning the prestigious Mackey Award that is given to the best TE in the nation, as well as earning the Disney Spirit award that’s given to the most inspirational college football player.
When he was selected by the Packers in the 5th round, Williams had already proved that even if you come from a troubled home, you can still make your life worthwhile and meaningful.
But he wasn’t done yet.
After Getting Drafted
On a phone chat with GuysGirl on Saturday, Williams stated he hasn’t spoken to his father in over 13 years and currently has no plans to.
While he may or may not plan on speaking with his father in the future, Williams said he uses his mother and her strong example made in the past, to continue to fuel his future.
“My mom’s positive attitude towards is what drives me today. She would never put off something because it was ‘too hard’ or even say that life’s not fair.”
After facing three releases last season from the Packers, Jaguars and Patriots, Williams stated that going through those tough times give him perspective on training as hard as you can but still cherishing the little things.
“Once you get to the top level of the NFL, you want to keep having success. So the approach I have is to try and get better in every aspect of my life. From cleaning my room to brushing my teeth, my lifestyle is to do the best as I can at everything.”
“There are times after practices that guys go straight to the hot tub and they’re scared or angry about if they might get cut. I just look around and think to myself how lucky we are to all be playing in the NFL.“
Williams is currently entering his fourth season in the NFL and participating with the Patriots for OTA’s and minicamps, with a chance to make the 2014 roster.
When he’s not on the field, you can find Williams honing in on his passion for music, but as far as when football is over, he admits he doesn’t really have that part nailed down.
“I really enjoy sports broadcasting so I could always see that in my future. But I’m interested in doing a lot of things so I want to keep my options open. For right now, I have a lot of work left to do in the NFL.”
Before the phone call ended, we asked Williams if he had any advice for someone who may be going through something similar to his upbringing, to which he said:
“Some people have always told me to ‘make sure you’re prepared because opportunities don’t come along too long often.’ But I believe you can create your own opportunities every single day. You can grow up as a silver-spoon baby or may have hit the genetic lottery but how much you’re willing to sacrifice to get what you want, without compromising your integrity, are the qualities of those that are truly successful.
You can never stop learning. But you have to be able to find the balance to allow ourselves to appreciate the little things in life. ”