Williams, Doug 1955–

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Doug Williams 1955

College football coach

Played in the NFL

Signed with the USFL

Super Bowl Glory


Doug Williams, the first African American quarterback to win the Most Valuable Player Award in a Super Bowl, was born on August 9, 1955 in Zachary, Louisiana. He was the sixth of eight children born to Robert and Laura Williams. His father, who was wounded in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, was a construction worker and a nightclub manager. His mother worked at a local school as a cook. Although they were poor, the Williams were a very close-knit family.

Williams began playing football at the age of seven. He also played baseball and basketball, but it soon became evident that he was destined to become a football quarterback. As a senior at Chaneyville High School, Williams threw for 1,180 yards and twenty-two touchdowns. Despite these impressive statistics, Southern University and Grambling State University were the only schools that recruited him. Because he was so impressed with Grambling coaching legend Eddie Robinson, Williams chose to attend Grambling. In the summer of 1973, Williams reported to Grambling for his freshman year. He was redshirted during his first season at Grambling. Williams was so disappointed that he thought seriously about quitting school and his grades began to suffer. After his first semester, he carried a lowly 1.5 grade point average. When Williamss dad saw his report card, he threatened to take his son out of school and make him find a job.

During his sophomore year, Williams was listed as Gramblings third-string quarterback. Dissatisfied with his lack of playing time, he tried to quit the team. Williams got his big break when the teams first-string quarterback was injured and eventually worked his way into a starting role. He started every game for the remainder of the 1974 season and during the next three years of his college career. He won 35 of 40 games he played as quarterback and led Grambling to four straight Southwestern Athletic Conference championships. In 1977, Williams was named first-team All-American by the Associated Press and finished fourth in voting for the Heisman Trophy. He finished his collegiate career with 93 touchdown passes and 8,411 yards passing. He also completed a bachelor of science degree in health and physical education.

Played in the NFL

In the 1978 National Football League (NFL) Draft, Williams was the first quarterback taken with the 17th overall

At a Glance

Born Douglas Williams on August 9, 1955-in Za chary, LA; son of Robert (a construction worker) and Laura (a cook) Williams; married to La Taunya Williams; children: Ashley, Adrian, Douglas Jr., and Jasmine. Education; Grambling State University, BS in health and physical education, 1977.

Career: Played quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1978-82; played In the United States Football League for the Oklahoma/Arizona Outlaws, 1983-85; played with thfc Washington Redskins, 1986-89; fourtded the Doug Williams Foondation, 1988; head coach atlachary Northeast High School, 1993; assistant coach at the U.S. Naval Academy, 1994; offensive coordinator for the Scottish Claymores of the World Football League, 1995; scout for the Jacksonville Jaguars, 199S-96; head coach at Morihouse College, 1997; head coach at Grambling State University, 1998-,

Awards; Named first team All-Americant by the Associated Press and finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting, 1977; NFl All-Rookie Team, 1978; Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XXII, 1988,

Addresses: RessidenceZachary, LA; Bussines-Athletic Office, Crambling State University, Grambling, LA 71245.

pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Williamss arrival in training camp was delayed because of a contract dispute, but he eventually signed a five-year contract worth $565,000. Despite coming to camp late, he won the starting quarterback job and led the hapless Buccaneers to a 4-4 record through the first eight games. In the tenth game of the season, Williams suffered a broken jaw and did not return until the seasons final game. Although his rookie season was abbreviated, he was named to the NFLs All-Rookie team.

In 1979, Williams led the Buccaneers to a 10-6 record and a berth in theplayoffs. Although the Buccaneers lost in the NFC Championship game, they made tremendous strides with Williams as their quarterback. He had his best year statistically in 1980, but the Buccaneers stumbled to a 5-11 record. The following year, the Buccaneers earned another spot in the playoffs, but were soundly defeated 380 by the Dallas Cowboys.

In 1982, Williams married Janice Goss. That year, the NFL season was delayed by a players strike. Once the strike was settled, he led the Buccaneers to a 5-4 record and another berth in the playoffs. The Buccaneers again lost to the Cowboys by a score of 30-17. With his initial contract with the Buccaneers about to expire, Williams was confident that the team would give him a substantial raise. However, the Buccaneers offered him a contract that would only pay $400,000 per season. In the midst of these contract negotiations, Williamss wife began to experience severe headaches. In April of 1983, a CAT scan revealed that she had a brain tumor. Surgery to remove the tumor was scheduled immediately, but she died in the hospital one week later. Williams was shattered by the death of his wife and moved back to Zachary. During this time, Williamss father began to experience health problems and eventually had his legs amputated. Williams was also unable to agree to a contract with the Buccaneers and ended his association with the team.

Signed with the USFL

During Williamss negotiations with the Buccaneers, the United States Football League (USFL) was formed. Bill Tatham, the owner of the Oklahoma Outlaws, called Williams and offered him a substantial contract. He signedthe contract and began his USFL career. Although Williams played well for the Outlaws, the league was experiencing financial difficulties and was in danger of going bankrupt. After spending the 1985 season with the Outlaws, Williams was ready to return to the NFL. However, he was uncertain whether an NFL team would sign him to a contract and took a coaching job at Southern University.

In 1986, the USFL officially folded and many of its players returned to the NFL. Williams eventually received a phone call from Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, who had coached him in Tampa Bay. Williams quickly signed a contract and joined the Redskins as their backup quarterback. Gibbs told Norb Garrett and Cam Benty of Sport about Williamss first day of practice with the Redskins: (Receivers) Ricky Sanders and Clarence Verdin came in with him from the USFL. In the first practice, we put them in to turn the other teams plays and it was a passing clinic. Doug tore our defense to pieces, throwing balls like darts, and I couldnt believe it I remember (former Redskins owner) Jack Kent Cooke said to me, Im not going to pay him $500,000 to be a backup, and I said, He might not be a backup. He may win a Super Bowl for us one day.

Following the 1986 season, Williams married Lisa Robinson in June of 1987. The marriage quickly soured and Robinson moved out of Williamss house after only five months. Despite his personal difficulties, the 1987 season would prove to be a pivotal one for Williams. In the first game of the season the Redskins starting quarterback, Jay Schroeder, hurt his shoulder and Williams came off the bench to lead the team to victory. Although Schroeder maintained his starting position throughout the season, Williams received increasingly more playing time. During the final game of the season, Williams led the Redskins to an overtime victory over the Vikings and was named the starting quarterback for the playoffs. He led the Redskins to two playoff victories and a berth in the Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos.

Super Bowl Glory

The night before the Super Bowl, Williams experienced a severe toothache. He consulted the team dentist, who informed him that he needed a root canal immediately. Williams underwent the procedure and spent the night taking the pain-killing drug Perkadan. When he awoke the next morning, he felt fine. In the first quarter of the game, Williams twisted his knee. Despite the pain, he remained in the game and led the Redskins to a 35-10 halftime lead. During the second half, Williams threw the ball only eight times because the Redskins running attack was so dominant. The Redskins went on to trounce the Broncos 42-10 and Williams was named the Super Bowl MVP. Williams set Super Bowl records for yards passing (340), yards passing in a quarter (228), touchdown passes (4), and the longest completion (80 yards).

During the off-season, Williams and other Grambling alumni created the Doug Williams Foundation. The foundation raised money to encourage kids to stay in school and away from drugs. Williams also took time to visit two or three schools a day to speak to students about the importance of education. The Redskins also signed Williams to a new contract worth $3.3 million over three years and named him the starter for the 1988 season. However, he was knocked out of the starting lineup almost immediately due to a bout with appendicitis. Williams had an appendectomy and spent four weeks of the season on injured reserve. For the remainder of the season, he was in andout of the starting lineup and the Redskins finished with a disappointing 7-9 record.

As the 1989 season approached, Williams faced stiff competition from Mark Rypien for the Redskins starting quarterback position. During training camp, Williams found that he had difficulty throwing the football. A medical examination showed that a disc in his back was pressing against his sciatic nerve. Williams underwent surgery and struggled to regain his strength. At the same time, the health of Williamss father took a turn for the worse. In October of 1989, he entered the hospital with pneumonia and died one week later. Williams returned to the Redskins lineup, but experienced back pain after only two games. Midway through the 1989 season, he was benched and did not play for the rest of the season. At the end of the 1989 season, the Redskins released Williams. In an interview with Donald Hunt of Sport, Williams related how he felt cheated that the Redskins had given up on him. Its funny, they give Joe Montana a whole year off to get his elbow together.. .(Montana) didnt have to worry about a thing. As for me, my team never gave me a chance to rehabilitate my back.

Williams retired from professional football and, although he became involved with other business opportunities, discovered that he still loved the game. In 1993, Williams coached football and taught physical education at his old high school. He then landed an assistant coaching position at the Naval Academy. Williams later served as the offensive coordinator for the Scottish Claymores of the World League and scouted for the NFLs Jacksonville Jaguars. He also spent one year as the head football coach at Morehouse College.

In 1998, Williams was named the head football coach at Grambling State University, replacing legendary coach Eddie Robinson. He assessed the state of Gramblings football program for Donald Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: We have a lot of work to do. Were not reloading. Were rebuilding. Theres a big difference. We pretty much have to start from scratch. Williams changed everything about the program from the assistant coaches to the style of play, updating Robinsons Wing-T to a more modern offense. In his first season as head coach, he led the Tigers to a 5-6 record (4-4 in the Southwestern Conference.) Williams summed up Gramblings season for the Associated Press after the team lost to Southern University at the Bayou Classic: Im not ashamed of this game or any game we played this yearNo one blew us out early. We never gave up. We got better every game. I told my kids to hit the weight room on Monday and next year well make the next step. As he has done in college and in the NFL, Williams appears ready to drive a team to success.



Williams, Doug and Hunter, Bruce. Quarterblack: Shattering the NFL Myth. Bonus Books, Inc.: Chicago, II, 1990.


Sport, February 1995; September 1998.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 14, 1998.


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Michael J. Watkins

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