excerpts from “A Champion Within’ The Autobiography of Robert Williams
Q. What Kind of College Football Player Were you?
A. I believe most of my college teammates would say my physical talents were marginal at best. I did not run a fast forty and weight lifting was an embarrassment. Often teammates would joke and make it an issue for comedy relief or chastise me for my weak work ethic in the weight room. They were mostly right, I did not run fast in a straight line, and lifting weight seemed to be a waste of time.
In my view, we did not play the game on the track and I seldom remember running downon the kickoff and tackling someone on a weight bench. The bottom line, I possessed tremendous skills and a cognitive gift for the knowledge of the game. I relied on something most football player were accused of not having…a brain.
I was an intelligent and tough football player, I studied game film intensely my entire career at Eastern. The coaches often reminded me of this value as I sat in on a few game planning with them. The game of football is about being smarter than your opponent and then exhibit your might; I had large muscles in those areas. However, some teammates were jealous because they did not conceive those traits as important than their speed or bench max. I believe I never received the accolades from some teammates because of my minuscule physical traits and my abrasive in your face personality. ..
…Football is an egotistical game and teammates can become jealous quite easy. In 1983, I was named to the AFCA Kodak All-American for the second consecutive year. As customary the award was given at the half time of a home basketball game. However, the same year my teammate Chris Nicholson had a tremendous season. He led the team in sacks, tackle for lost, he was a force of nature. In the air was the feeling that “Thick Nick” as we referred to him deserved the prestigious award instead. Some teammates made their position known that night in Lantz gymnasium as their applauds was cool at best when my named came across the PA system…
Sadly, some felt I was less than deserving of the award and they made sure I knew this in an implicit manner…I was hurt by their reaction but not surprise; I heard rumors and rumblings earlier in the week. I remember only receiving a few handshakes that night from teammates and the mass coolness from many detractors…
“Thick Nick” deserved All-American honors in 1983 as he was a stellar ball player, as was myself, but the selective committee saw fit to honor my play instead. I had nothing to do with that…my being one of only two first-team All-American in Eastern Illinois history remains controversial for some but albeit deserving…some teammates believe they were better than me and rightly so I guess, I just wished their play was awarded nationally as so to quantify it.
Robert A. Williams