A True Soul Survivor: Part Two

By Ronald Glover
Updated: November 1, 2008

PHILADELPHIA — During Doug Williams’ negotiations with the Bucs, the United States Football League (USFL) was formed. Bill Tatham, owner of the Oklahoma Outlaws reached out to Williams and offered him a substantial contract.

Williams played three seasons in the USFL, unsure that he would receive and offer from the NFL, he took a coaching job at Southern University.

When things seem the darkest…light is just over the horizon.

In 1986, the USFL officially folded. And Williams was just settling in at Southern U. When he received and unlikely call from Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs who knew Williams from his years in Tampa Bay.

Williams would sign with the ‘Skins as the backup to Jay Schroeder. But Gibbs saw bigger things for Williams. In a conversation with ‘Skins owner Jack Kent Cooke, Gibbs let his confidence in Williams be known, “‘I’m not going to pay him $500,000 to be a backup’ and I said, ‘He may not be a backup, He may win a Super Bowl for us one day”‘.

Despite a new lease on his football career Williams’ personal difficulties continued. He married Lisa Robinson in June of 1987, but the union only lasted about five months.

Jay Schroeder was the opening day starter. In the opener against the Eagles he was injured. Williams would become the starter, but a 24 day strike allowed Schroeder to heal.

Again, as fate would allow, Williams would hurt his back and Schroeder would regain his starting job. Williams was reduced to tears his final shot seemed wasted as the playoffs loomed.

Weeping may endure for a night – but joy cometh in the morning.

In the season’s final game the ‘Skins need a win against the Vikings to get a higher seed and possibly home field in the playoffs. Schroeder plays a terrible first half and is pulled by Gibbs in the 3rd quarter.

Williams is put in, leads the ‘Skins to victory and is named the starter for the playoffs. He would throw for three touchdowns in the Redskins two playoff victories against the Bears and Vikings

Although the Denver Broncos, a stupid question, a toothache, and a hyperextended knee stood in the way of history. It would take an embarassment from the previous season and the hopes of those that came before him to pull Williams through.

— The Denver Broncos were led by John Elway who had become a sympathetic figure in the eyes of many after leading his team through one of the greatest drives in NFL history to reach Super Bowl XXI. The Broncos would be trounced by the Giants in Super Bowl XXI. This was his second crack at the Lombardi Trophy.

— Media week at the Super Bowl brings out some of the best soundbytes that you’ll probably get the entire week. The dumbest soundbyte was a question that came from a reporter who asked Williams, “How long have you been a Black quarterback?” Williams’ reposnse was, “Well, I’ve been Black all my life.” The reporter really wanted to know how long had Williams had the intelligence to be a quarterback disguised as a Black man.

— The morning before the Super Bowl, Williams woke up with a sore tooth and a headache. The dentist could only do a root canal to promise Williams would be pain-free. Williams went through with the root canal. That night he even indulged in his pregame snack – a bag of Hershey’s kisses.

— Denver jumps out to a 10-0 lead when the inexplicable happens. Williams drops back and the grass comes from under his feet hyperextending his knee — he miraculously returns but it’s the motivation behind the return that is the true miracle.

In the 1986 NFC Championship Game against the Giants, Jay Schroeder was knocked silly by Lawrence Taylor – Gibbs sent Williams onto the field to sub for Schroeder but Schroeder furiously waved Williams off. As if to say – I’d rather fall on my own sword in defeat, before I allow you to lead us to victory.

Williams took that show of disrespect and filed it away, vowing that if the tables ever turned, Schroeder would never be under center as long as they wore the same uniform.

Williams would return and on his first play from scrimmage hit Ricky Sanders with an 80-yard strike to cut the lead to 10-7. After a Denver punt Williams found Gary Clark on a 27-yard touchdown pass.

Unsung hero Timmy Smith (202 rushing yards) broke off a 58-yard scamper to make the score 21-10. Williams wasn’t done yet, before halftime he would throw his third and fourth touchdowns of the quarter to Sanders and tight end Clint Didier, respectively.

Before you could blink Williams had thrown four touchdowns in the second quarter and the ‘Skins put up and total of 35 points on the Broncos. Putting the game out of reach before halftime as the Broncos would not score again in a 42-10 defeat.

Williams had made history and in his contribution he carried the spirits of those before him; Fritz Pollard, Willie Thrower, George Taliaferro, Sandy Stephens, Marlin Briscoe, James”Shack” Harris, Joe Gilliam, John Walton and Vince Evans.

Doug Williams’ life paralleled to that of Job, a biblical figure who was faithful to God in the face of losing all that he had.

Through all of his trials and tribulations he never cursed his Maker and for that he was given back what we had tenfold.

When a door seemed closed Williams kept coming back. Whether it was the death of his young wife or a root canal, Doug Williams just kept getting up.

Williams may never get into the Hall of Fame and he may never become a head coach in the NFL, but for one day in January. Doug Williams was the greatest football player on the planet.

Because God chose him to be.