African-American History Month Day Two – Redskins hero Doug Williams

  • Rich Hilts
Doug Williams Symes Getty Photos

Doug Williams
Symes Getty Photos

Everyone has heard, of course, all the rumors about Doug Williams‘ potential return to the Redskins front office.

Many of us celebrate that move as a legend returning to his proper home.

What many people don’t realize is that this is his second shot at that.

In 2011, he was offered the opportunity to come back into the organization by Dan Snyder, but turned it down. He reluctantly didn’t take the offer because he was offered the opportunity to coach his son, D.J. at Grambling University. While his second stint at Grambling didn’t end in the way he wanted, what I’d like to do is focus on what Doug accomplished and what he meant to a young man who worshipped the Redskins as he was growing up.

My memory of listening to the Superbowl was while I was a driver at a pizza place, delivering pizzas while desperately trying to listen to the game in between and during delivery runs.

I remember being dejected. My beloved Skins, after making it to the Superbowl, had dropped behind John Elway and the Broncos. We were down by 10 in the first quarter,  and it didn’t seem like we were doing much of anything on the field. Elway, in the meantime, seemed like he was going to pound us mercilessly. Prior to this, no 10 point deficit had ever been overcome in a Super Bowl. We didn’t seem to be clicking, while the Broncos seemed to move down the field easily.

I had a co-worker who was pulling for the Broncos, and he was gloating.

Then we scored. Ricky Sanders managed to get open and catch a pass then scampered 80 yards for a touchdown.

It was perfect. I had just gotten back in my car, wondering if we were going to be down even further, and then we scored. I was overjoyed, thinking to myself that maybe, just maybe, we were going to at least make a game of this.  I was pounding the roof of my car and whooping.

On my way back from my delivery, you can imagine my reaction when Gary Clark caught a diving catch in the end zone to push the Skins into the lead. Needless to say, drivers around me must have thought me quite deranged.

doug williams

Doug Williams
Washington Post photos

The rest of the night went by in a haze of burgundy and gold as we scored 35 points in the second quarter and Doug Williams had engineered not only a comeback that hadn’t been equaled before in Superbowl history, but had delivered an MVP performance yet to be equaled. His 4 touchdown throws in not only a half, but in one quarter stands as the best performance by a quarterback in any Superbowl.

For that alone, he stands as a hero in my heart, and will for all times. But the man himself and how he comports himself is another reason to believe he would be a great addition once again to our team and our family.

He worked himself up as a player through Grambling University, and gave back to that school not only through his coaching, but through his generosity, donating $10,000 a year to the school. In fact, his unceremonious firing from the school seems to point to a power struggle with the leadership of that school. It wasn’t for Doug’s power or prestige, but seemingly it was a fight to make things better for the kids under his care. The kids actually boycotted when he was fired, they cared so much for Doug.

He’s known his share of adversity. That’s to be sure – he played for some really gut wrenching ugly teams while at Tampa Bay, a new franchise that hadn’t had time to really build itself up. Even though they lost their first 26 games, Doug led the team to a Division championship as well as competed in the Conference championship in 1979.  Doug also took the Bucs to the playoffs after a thrilling winner take all game against Detroit to take the Central Division. After a contract dispute, however, he moved on to the USFL, which didn’t, as we know, last very long. Then, of course, came the call from Joe Gibbs to backup Jay Schroeder, the then starter for the Redskins. And then there was his moment in glory, a hero for a team, a city, fans around the world and himself.

Williams has since coached on many levels, starting with high school as head coach and athletic director at Point Coupee High School in New Roa

Doug Williams at Grambling ESPN photos

Doug Williams at Grambling
ESPN photos

ds, Louisiana in 1991. In 1993, he was head coach at Northeast High School in his hometown of Zachary, Louisiana. He led Northeast to a 13-1 record and the state semifinals.

He helped tutor running backs for Navy in 1994. He was a scout for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995 and an offensive coordinator for the Scottish Claymores of the World League of American Football in 1995. Doug began his work as a college head coach at Morehouse College in 1997.

Williams took the reins at Grambling State University in 1998, succeeding the legendary head coach Eddie Robinson. He led the Tigers to three consecutive Southwestern Athletic Conference titles from 2000-2002, before leaving to rejoin the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a personnel executive. Williams was promoted to the position of director of professional scouting in February 2009 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

On May 11, 2010, it was announced that Williams would no longer be the director professional scouting for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was subsequently hired as the general manager of the Norfolk expansion franchise in the United Football League, now known as the Virginia Destroyers.

On February 21, 2011, Williams resigned from the Destroyers to begin his second stint as the head football coach at Grambling State University.


Doug Williams
Washington Post photos

He has always been unstinting in his time, from quarterback camps to his help on the “Just Say No” campaign. Never having it easy from his time at Tampa to having the USFL collapse around himself and others, he persevered through it all. He shows his strength and his courage at all times, not giving up, even when the giving up would seem easiest.

His foundation, the Shack Harris & Doug Williams Foundation is dedicated to providing opportunities to disadvantaged youth provides grants for after-school initiatives, leadership development, mentoring programs and minority higher education assistance.

While it is significant that he is the only African American to have won the Superbowl, it is his exploits as a man and his charity that elevates him in my heart and eyes. He embodies what we can all hope to reach for in our lives as far as not only success, but the striving to succeed and his inescapable belief in ever reaching for achievement.

I would consider it a high honor indeed to meet with and shake his hand at some point in my life. Not simply due to his being a Superbowl champion, but as a man and a champion of life.

Thanks for all the memories Doug. I’ll cherish them forever. It’s time to come home now.


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Rich Hilts

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