NICEVILLE — Former Super Bowl champion Sherman Williams is set to visit Northwest Florida State College on Saturday.
Williams, a member of the Dallas Cowboys from 1995-1999, will speak during a symposium at NWF State from 10 a.m. to noon in the Learning Resource Center about his fame, fortune, 15-year prison sentence and rising from the ashes. The event is open to the public.
Williams now is a motivational speaker, co-founder of a nonprofit organization and an author. He said in a phone interview Wednesday that he is excited to visit Florida and speak to one of his favorite audiences — college students.
“I want to talk to the students about decision-making,” said Williams, a native of Mobile, Alabama. “I want to impart to them that if they do everything they’re supposed to do and work toward their goals, statistically they’ll be rewarded. The opportunity to make poor decisions is just as easy. You have to choose. That’s what life is all about — decision-making.”
Williams refers to himself as “The Prodigal Son.” He said he began his life making good decisions, winning championships in high school, college at the University of Alabama (1992) and Super Bowl XXX his rookie season of 1995 with the Cowboys, before succumbing to poor decisions, including conspiracy to distribute marijuana and passing counterfeit currency, that put him in prison.
“I had to go into the wilderness for a while for me to realize my full blessing,” Williams said. “I wrote my book called Crimson Cowboy to give back to the community and to let my life be a testimony. By writing it, I’m able to put my story down on paper and the world can witness the miracle that God has worked in my life.”
Williams said he is using the profits from his book to give college scholarships to students and also fund his nonprofit Palmer-Williams Group.
“We were able to reward two college scholarships this past year,” Williams said. “We had an essay contest and the winners got a full ride. It was our nonprofit’s greatest accomplishment so far, to give two kids a chance to pursue their dreams.”
Patrice Williams-Shuford, director of the Robert L.F. Sikes Education Center, said she followed Williams' story during his football career while she was a student at Alabama State University. She said she suggested him as a potential speaker to the college’s African American Student Organization, which is putting on the event.
“I’m excited about Williams speaking because he has played for teams our community can identify with, from the University of Alabama to the Dallas Cowboys," Williams-Shuford said. “And, he has gone through challenges and has come out of them successful.”
Williams' nonprofit also created Life Sync Academy, which provides social skills, job training and career development to youths in Mobile. It also has two sports teams which Williams said he uses as a platform to mentor and counsel young athletes and bring them to the next level. He said it also provides the athletes a safe platform to express their talents.
“My best advice I could give to a young athlete would be to have a great attitude,” he said. “Stay positive and stay productive. Make good decisions off the field. If you’re talented enough on the field, you don’t have to worry about it, you just have to focus on making good decisions off the field.”
For Williams, he said his greatest success in life, besides becoming a Christian, was winning Super Bowl XXX after Dallas defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-17, in Tempe, Ariz. He said he still does the famous “Sherman Shake” at fans’ requests.
“You work so hard as an athlete and you have this dream and vision,” Williams said.”To actually accomplish that is a great success."
Williams added that playing alongside Emmitt Smith and other athletes on the same caliber was an honor he will always treasure.
“Football is the ultimate team sport, and being on the team with those guys and to actually win a Super Bowl was a blessing," Williams said. "I still have my Super Bowl ring and I cherish it as a memory of my past. I’ll pass it on to my grans or great grans one day.”
Williams was supposed to attend a VIP event Friday, but it was canceled by the college because of low ticket sales, according to Williams-Shuford.