There will be 22 Alabama football players, past and present, who receive their undergraduate degrees this weekend.
The group of past players includes recent standouts like Heisman-winning running back Derrick Henry (now with the Tennessee Titans), Oakland Raiders wideout Amari Cooper and Green Bay Packers defensive back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Also among that group is Sherman Williams. He took a circuitous path to walk across that stage with his diploma.
Williams, 44, was a standout running back for the Crimson Tide from 1991-1994. As a senior, he rushed for 1,341 yards and eight touchdowns, earning All-SEC and second-team All-American honors. His final game in an Alabama uniform, the 1995 Citrus Bowl against Ohio State, was perhaps his finest. Williams rushed for 166 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries while also catching eight passes for 155 yards. He broke a 17-17 tie with the winning 50-yard touchdown reception with 42 seconds left and was the game’s MVP.
From there, Williams was chosen in the second round of the 1995 NFL draft by Dallas Cowboys, where he backed up Emmitt Smith for four seasons, winning a Super Bowl ring in the process. Williams was released after the first game of the 1999 season.
Less than two years later, he was incarcerated.
On Dec. 6, 2000, a federal jury in Mobile found Williams guilty of one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and two counts of attempting to possess marijuana with intent to distribute. He also pleaded guilty to a counterfeiting charge. On March 26, 2001, U.S. District Judge Charles Butler sentenced Williams to 15 years, eight months in prison and ordered his incarceration to be followed by four years of probation. Williams got out of prison in March 2014.
Upon his release, Williams started a community assistance program for disadvantaged children and returned to school. Alabama even “picked up the tuition costs” from his scholarship, he said.
Per Al.com, he was 21 hours short of graduating when he left school for the NFL the first time. Through a series of online and remote class, Williams completed his degree in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on community leadership.
Williams told Al.com he finished his degree in order to be a positive example for the kids he now mentors.
“I wanted to go back for the simple purpose of being an example,” Williams said about finishing his degree requirements. “In my program at the Palmer-Williams Group, we talk to the kids about the importance of education. We want them to understand how important education is, so I wanted to be that example that, ‘Hey, look at all the obstacles I’ve got to go through, and I’m going to complete my degree.’ So we know when obstacles come to them, they can look back and they can say, ‘Well, Sherman Williams, he went through a lot, came through a lot and he finished.’ They probably can do the same thing.”
Congratulations are in order to Williams for a heck of an accomplishment.
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