October 24, 2021


Icon: Doug Williams

Retired NFL quarterback (1978-1989), Super Bowl XXII MVP; former head coach at Grambling State University; personnel executive for Tampa Bay Buccaneers, age 53

Art Levy | 1/1/2009

Doug Williams
Doug Williams [Photo: Jeffrey Camp]
» We didn’t have running water at our house until I was 14 years old. We drew water out back. We had an outhouse. Today, we’d be on food stamps, but back then we got government rations. Every month, you’d go in and pick up your boxes. I’m not ashamed of that. It helps me stay grounded.

» Growing up, I was an athlete — baseball, basketball, football — but I never really dreamed of playing professionally. I just wanted to go to college, get a degree and come back home and coach high school football.

» When I was a kid, we didn’t have role models. We just had people we wanted to be like. My older brother, Robert, was the guy I wanted to be like. He was 15 years older than me. He played baseball at Grambling and got drafted in the late rounds by the Cleveland Indians in 1964. He was a pitcher, and he hurt his rotator cuff, and back then they didn’t have all the modern-day surgery. Once you hurt your arm, you were done. He came back home and was a teacher and a coach. In the seventh or eighth grade, I was in his history class. He always made an example of me. If I didn’t have my homework, I was the first one called up and popped upside the head.

» I played to win. It wasn’t about personal gain. It was about the team. I gave my body. That’s probably why I walk the way I do today. Look, I’ve had five operations on my left knee and one on my right. I’ve had a separated shoulder and a broken jaw. I’ve had back surgery, a broken ankle and a whole lot of headaches. Knock on wood, I can still walk. It’s the price you pay to play the game.

» In 1978, when I first came to the Bucs, there weren’t many African-Americans playing the quarterback position. It was hard probably for a lot of people to accept me. I got my share of mail over the years. I got a box once with a ripe watermelon inside and different expletives saying what I could do with it. I heard the boos. I heard a lot of things, but at the end of the day I never crawled into a shell and said I’m not coming out to play today. You have to be like a duck. You have to let it roll off your back.

» Being confident in my abilities, I’ve always been one to say that pressure is something that an individual puts on himself. I refuse to let anyone else put pressure on me.

» Some people dispute it because they probably weren’t there, but I was asked before the Super Bowl, ‘How long have you been a black quarterback?’ I didn’t take it as a stupid, stupid question because I felt like I knew what he was trying to say.

» The day before the Super Bowl, I had a root canal. It was no big thing.

» A lot of things came to mind after we won that game. There are a lot of things you’d like to say and a lot of people you’d like to tell where to get off, but I realized it wasn’t worth it. I realized it’s not about yesterday and it’s not about tomorrow. It’s about now.

» Afterwards, I thought about Martin Luther King when he talked about getting to the mountaintop. And in my profession, at that particular time, I was on the mountaintop. The rest of the stuff didn’t bother me.

» My phone didn’t blow up after the Super Bowl. Even today, being the only African-American quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl MVP, to me it seems like it should mean something as far as advertising or being a pitch man for certain things. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t.

» Coaching is teaching. It’s patience. You have to be able to suffer the headaches sometimes. If you don’t like kids, don’t do it.

» Opportunity made me leave Grambling. I’ve known Jon Gruden since he’s about 15 or 16 years old. His daddy was one of my assistant coaches. John and I stayed in contact, and he always said that someday we’re going to end up working together.

» At this point, I’d like to be a general manager. If you are going to move up in football as an African-American, you have a better shot doing it in professional football rather than in college. I wish I could answer why. I think there’s an answer out there. I think the athletic directors and the university presidents know, but they might not tell.

» If you’re not first, you’re last, and that’s how you have to look at it.

» My 16-year old son thinks he has the dumbest dad in the world. I tell him all the time that my dad used to be dumb, too, until I got older and realized that some of the things he told me had come to fruition.

Tags: Florida Icon, Tampa Bay

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