Dec. 22, 2004
This is one in a series of profiles on finalists for the John Wooden Cup presented by Athletes for a Better World. The inaugural award will be presented to two distinguished athletes - one collegiate and one professional - that best display character, teamwork and citizenship as determined by the ABW John Wooden Cup Committee. Twelve athletes in both the collegiate and professional categories reached the semifinal round and the trophy will be presented in Los Angeles on Jan. 10. ABW was founded in 1998 on the principles of hard work, fair play, commitment to team, sportsmanship and community service.
By Mallory Carra
Special to CollegeSports.com
Before starting two-a-day practices last summer, Stephen F. Austin quarterback Michael Williams used his days to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. He was recruited by his pastor to help build a home for an elderly couple in Texas near Houston, his hometown.
Although Williams could not recall the names of the couple, he did remember their glowing presence while he was participating in the construction.
"I wanted to help someone in need and I enjoyed it. I knew this couple really needed it," he said. "I helped out with some of the nailing of the framework, sawing, hammering, really got down and dirty. The couple watched us some days and they were just so excited. Having them there really gives you a push, too."
His hard work in the community and on the football field pushed Williams to be selected as one of six finalists for the inaugural Wooden Cup.
"I'm definitely excited about it," he said. "It's such a prestigious honor."
The starting quarterback ended his career with the Lumberjacks with a 37-16 loss to Northwestern State on Nov. 20, completing the 2004 season with a 6-5 record. The senior was named to the 2004 All-Southland Conference Football Preseason First Team. Last season, he earned First Team All-Southland Conference honors after picking up the starting job for six games.
When not on the field, Williams devoted his time to the community. He and his fellow Lumberjacks mentored kids at several local elementary schools, reading and spending time with the students.
"We're always reading to them and it's great to see the smiles on their faces and how excited they get when you read a book they really like," he said.
Williams and his teammates also volunteer to help with the Special Olympics in Texas every spring. He and his teammates help with several tasks during the event, like measuring the long jump, getting the participants water and handing out medals.
"I love seeing their smiles and seeing them enjoy themselves," he said. "They get really excited and we realize how lucky we are to have the abilities we have and not take them for granted."
Williams currently serves as president of the Stephen F. Austin State Student Athlete Advisory Committee and has been a football representative for four years. He was most proud of a committee proposal made to the athletic department for an attendance policy that requires athletes attend classes, which has since been enforced by the department.
"As student-athletes, we're expected to do so much in our sport and in the classroom," he said. "This committee helps make our lives easier."
In 2003, the NCAA selected Williams to participate in the annual NCAA Leadership Conference, a five-day forum for student-athletes to discuss issues while enhancing their leadership skills. The NCAA invites 325 student-athletes annually to participate in the program.
"It was great to see how the NCAA works and what it takes to run such a big organization and its rules and regulations for student-athletes," he said. "Everybody who was invited brought something different to the table."
After graduating in May with a bachelor's degree in communications, he hopes to continue playing football by either entering the draft next year or entering the field as a free agent. If football falls through, Williams' back up plan is to pursue a career in public relations at the NCAA, where he is applying for an internship.
"I'll go in the weight room and just get better," he said. "We'll see what happens."