"I think as a player, it has to be a professional relationship. I got into camp late and he took an awful lot of time with me. I used to go to Coach Gibbs' house at night after practice," Williams recently told Skins Report. "We both made an impact on each other. If we didn't, I don't think he would have gave me an opportunity to come to Washington."
After an at-times contemptuous five-year stint with the Buccaneers, and two seasons in the USFL with Oklahoma and Arizona, an opportunity was exactly what the Zachary, LA, native needed. However, having been a starter all his life, there was the question of whether being second-string to Jay Schroeder would frustrate him. Williams said the answer was simple.
"It wasn't frustrating at all. I came in there under the pretense that I was the backup. When Joe called me, that was one of the discussions that we had. He told me that Schroeder was the (starting) quarterback. I (do) think that you have to ask a guy who has never been a backup whether or not, mentally, he can do it. But, remember, when Joe called me, I didn't have a job. So it wasn't hard at all."
That season, Williams attempted one pass. But late in the following campaign, Gibbs decided to bench Schroeder and give Williams the starting nod for the regular season finale against Minnesota. Washington beat the Vikings 27-24 in overtime and Williams would remain at quarterback for the playoffs. Personnel decisions like that are perhaps why Gibbs became the winningest coach in the team's history, and why Washington was in the Super Bowl for the third time in six years.
Williams and the Redskins made history in Super Bowl XXII, but it wasn't easy. Trailing Denver 10-0 late in the opening quarter, Williams severely twisted his left knee and was temporarily forced to the sideline. "The only thing that was going through my mind was I was hoping I wasn't hurt bad enough to leave the football game. That was the No. 1 priority," said Williams. "I hyper-extended it and it was bad. I got some treatment. You do what you have to do."
The treatment worked and what Williams and his teammates did in the second quarter was record-setting and in the minds of Redskins fans, unforgettable!
0:53 - RICKY SANDERS 80-YARD PASS FROM WILLIAMS (HAJI-SHEIKH KICK) "That pass basically was supposed to be a seven-yard hitch. The defense dictated what we did on that play. It wasn't a called 80-yarder. It was a called hitch pass, just to try to get things rolling. The defensive back played it a different way. He came up to press and jam, and he missed the jam. Ricky got by him and it was easy."
4:45 - GARY CLARK 27-YARD PASS FROM WILLIAMS (HAJI-SHEIKH KICK) "Actually, Gary shouldn't have been the receiver. When we sat there and watched it, the ball should have went in the flat to the back (Kelvin Bryant). It was a "hot" situation, which means they had a blitz on. But the linebacker didn't get there. Even if he'd got there, he wouldn't have got there in time to stop me from throwing the football. Gary was wide open."
8:33 - TIMMY SMITH 58-YARD RUN (HAJI-SHEIKH KICK)
11:18 - SANDERS 50-YARD PASS FROM WILLIAMS (HAJI-SHEIKH KICK) "Remember, we were running the counter and they had to respect Timmy Smith. Basically, it was just a play-action off the counter. The free safety came up to make the play and Ricky got behind him. It was a cakewalk."
13:56 CLINT DIDIER 8-YARD PASS FROM WILLIAMS (HAJI-SHEIKH KICK) "Like they said on TV, it must be getting ‘Clint Didier Time!' Clint ran a corner route and with Gary and Ricky on the ends, you've got to be more concerned with those guys than you are with Clint Didier. He just slipped out there."
In the 42-10 victory, the Redskins set several Super Bowl records including the most points in a quarter with 35. Williams completed 18 of 29 passes for 340 yards and four touchdown passes, earning the MVP trophy.
"That wasn't big. You know why? Because there were so many other people out there who were MVPs. Let's talk about 204 yards (rushing) by Timmy Smith. Ricky Sanders had 193 yards in receptions. The offensive line blocked their asses off. And I think Barry Wilburn had what, two interceptions? So there could have been a number of people MVP in that game. I just happened to be one of them," Williams said. "A lot of it has to do with the team you're on and the people that you play with. I think that's where it comes from. I think the same road I traveled, Jim Plunkett probably traveled the same road, coming from New England to Oakland. It's being in the right place at the right time."
After four years with the Redskins, Williams felt it was the right time to follow his first dream of being a football coach. "When I graduated from high school, my oldest brother was one of my first coaches. That's what I wanted to do. I wanted to be like my oldest brother. Remember, there were no black quarterbacks in the league, so I had to look at it realistically. I didn't come to Grambling to be a professional football player, I came to Grambling to get a degree and to be a high school coach."
After coaching at two high schools in Louisiana, the Naval Academy in Maryland, with Scotland of the World League, and at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Williams returned to his alma mater last year to become the head coach at Grambling, replacing the legendary Eddie Robinson. Williams says following the winningest coach in college football history wasn't as difficult as it could have been.
"You don't think about it. You've got to be real. What Coach Robinson has done, no other man is going to do. 57 years. 408 wins. You've got to give him his props. You've got to bronze his shoes, pick them up and put them on the side. It was perfect timing for anybody to come in behind Eddie Robinson because, No. 1, the program had suffered three straight losing seasons. Basically, there was no pressure. Because if there had been pressure, if he had left a championship team, it'd have been a different ball game. It wasn't a championship team, it was in a rebuilding process."
Williams and his wife, LaTaunya, reside near the Grambling campus with their four children, Ashley, 16; Adrian, 10; Douglas III, 6; and Jasmine, 4.
Even though he's now ten years removed from the Redskins, he still follows his old team and looks back fondly at his time in Washington.
"I thought that was the chance of a lifetime. I knew I was going to a great organization with a guy like Jack Kent Cooke. He was going to give the coach every opportunity to win and he did that."
Originally published in 1999