Williams dominated for BC one game at a time, now he’s exploring life one day at a time
Ask Andre Williams why he loves football, and he’ll tell you the story of his athletic evolution-how he went from booking around on his bike to earning karate belts to wearing cleats and kicking around that other, rounder type of football called futbol, to finally ending up in a helmet and pads with the rock in his hands and holes to hit. Ask Williams about his legacy with Boston College football, and he’ll take you through the highs and lows of a redemptive senior season that defibrillated a program and concluded in bitter anguish in Louisiana. Ask the Heisman finalist about God and spirituality, and he’ll let you into his mind, deliberately and confidently sharing his beliefs and carefully crafting each thought before he speaks.
But if you ask Andre Williams a tough BC ResLife question, then he really has to think.
“Ummmm,” Williams responded, the gears in his head cranking. Silence filled the phone. “I mean Gabelli, Gabelli was nice. It was nice, and it had a kitchen. But I think that building that I most enjoyed-what’s the one across the street from Vandy?”
He’s thinking of 90, his former summer home. The verdict is in.
It’s been five months since the mild-mannered student-athlete Williams went national, exploding into the bludgeoning force of nature and defensive back nightmare known as #Andre44Heisman, and it’s been four months since the running back graduated a semester early from BC to become, in his words, a “real person.”
Heading into his senior season last fall, Williams could have struck stiff-arm poses for hours on end under the most advanced Heisman candidate radar without causing so much as a hiccup. Running back No. 44 had never broken 600 rushing yards in a season, and he had rushed for 10 touchdowns over three seasons. The Eagles were limping off a dismal 2-10 campaign and following new head coach Steve Addazio into the great unknown of an uncertain future. Williams’ personal goal was simple: hit 1,000 yards.
His story is old news by now-his stats and accolades are firmly ingrained in the collective consciousness of the Alumni faithful: 2,177 yards and 18 touchdowns in 13 games, a fourth-place finish in Heisman voting, the Doak Walker Award on the shelf, and a fifth place overall rank among running backs destined for the 2014 NFL Draft, according to CBSSports.com. Williams obliterated his rushing goal with a season of highlight-reel stampedes and literally ran, stiff-armed, and flipped his way into the national spotlight. Then, under the press conference hot lights, he talked his way into the hearts of the crustiest of media members, his thoughtful responses, offbeat quotes, and overwhelming sincerity combining for a unique breath of air in the pea soup of PR drivel.
As the hype grew, Williams became famous and a picture of the running back’s off-the-field life emerged. Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel dubbed him the “Renaissance Heisman candidate”-Williams was a teacher’s assistant for Courage to Know, the fledgling author of a philosophical memoir, and a highly regarded student. Over the winter, the quirks kept popping out of the woodwork. Williams laughed about Jameis Winston’s table manners and called Johnny Football a “freaky guy,” and at BC’s Pro Day, he revealed that he had been working with a renowned sports psychologist to improve his catching ability.
Knowing Williams is as simple as hitting a butterfly with a paper airplane in a hurricane: there’s always another surprise waiting around the corner. In the months leading up to the draft, Williams has been engaging in typically atypical activities: he’s putting a t-shirt design into production, customizing a car, finishing his book, and taking steps toward obtaining a pilot’s license. Despite the fact that an NFL career is beckoning just around the corner, “real person” Andre is pursuing every interest he can.
“I think he’s probably one of the most spiritual individuals I’ve ever met”
“He is the kind of person to take on unique things and do that even if he doesn’t have much time to do it,” said Williams’ friend, former four-year roommate, and teammate Alex Amidon.
From taking down Nazi zombies in Call of Duty to nailing yoga poses, Amidon saw Williams engage in a spectrum of interests over the course of their years in Chestnut Hill-his only complaint stemming from Williams’ alleged snoring.
“We’d occasionally have real deep conversations about something new he’d just learned about,” Amidon said. “God knows what.”
Common themes persist in everything Williams tackles and every tackle he breaks-focus and a constant awareness of spirituality. Raised in a Christian household, Williams describes himself as spiritual rather than religious-he reads the Bible every day but doesn’t make it to church every Sunday. Williams’ interest in his spirituality was sparked by a high school relationship-a glimpse at love filled him with an understanding of the phrase “God is love” and left him full of questions. Since then, Williams has been asking questions about himself and the world around him, questions he believes have led him to the point he’s reached today.
“I’ve learned a lot of things,” Williams said. “The Bible says when you knock, the door will be open, but you’re not going to learn anything unless you ask the questions yourself, and that’s what makes it such a personal relationship that each person has with God.”
“I think he’s probably one of the most spiritual individuals I’ve ever met,” said Audrey Friedman, assistant dean for undergraduate student services and Williams’ former advisor and teacher.
Williams and Friedman worked closely throughout Williams’ collegiate career and developed a phenomenological study on conflict as it’s manifested in the writing of urban high school students during Williams’ senior year. Friedman witnessed many of Williams’ curiosities and ponderings-they discussed God and heaven and cognitive moral development, interpreted poetry, and recommended books for each other.
“He has it all together,” Freidman said of Williams. “Incredible perseverance, drive, very bright, very good writer, and very honest. Just a great young man, a wonderful ambassador for Boston College and the Lynch School of Education.
“I think what I liked best about Andre-I mean, he’s a terrific athlete-but he’s a very kind, compassionate person who possesses extremely high moral standards.”
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In less than two weeks, Williams will, in all likelihood, begin a professional football career. The past year of his life was a whirlwind of change, success, and incredible achievement, one in which he exceeded all rational expectations and played a huge role in reinstalling pride and triumph in the BC football program. Surrounded by his family and friends in Pennsylvania, Williams will watch the Draft and hope that his name is called.
Thamel called Williams the Renaissance candidate, but he was off by a thousand years or so-the Socratic running back would be a more appropriate name. If the past is anything to go by, regardless of what happens in the Draft, it’s a safe bet that No. 44 will do what he’s always done: keep asking questions, finding new interests, and taking life one day at a time.
“Things get done on their own time frame,” Williams said. “Not gonna get everything done in a day-there’s not enough hours in a day-but the sun will rise tomorrow, and you’ll have a new opportunity. You just gotta try not to waste your time.”