One of the qualities that San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch has repeated since he took his position is the importance of football character in the players he has on the roster. That is what makes the choice to draft Utah running back Joe Williams so very interesting. Before Williams became the MVP of the Foster Farms Bowl at Levi’s Stadium, he stepped away from football and “retired” in September 2016. He returned to the game a month later.
Williams had an interesting start to his college playing career that started at University of Connecticut where he lost the structure of his former military schooling and felt lost. He was arrested for an incident involving using a teammates credit card but he says he has learned from his mistakes and wants to assure 49ers fans that he is a “completely new person.” He confirmed that 49ers scouts delved deeply into his character as a result.
One of the bigger questions about Williams is his commitment to football following a brief retirement from the game. He explained the situation in his first conference call following being drafted.
Williams’ sister, who had been in and out of the hospital over a weekend in June 2007, passed away in William’s arms. After autopsy results showed that emergency services could have sustained her life, Williams put the blame of her death squarely on his own shoulders. He went through counseling to deal with the guilt and shame for not calling 911 earlier and saving her life. He stepped away from football to be able to ‘mourn the way he needed to.’ He stepped away from football for four weeks and received psychiatric help to get his life back in order because it was “in shambles.”
During those four weeks of retirement Williams said he did more work for himself off the field than he had in 10 years and finally forgave himself for his sister’s death. Helping him find peace was getting a tattoo for his sister on his arm that reads “My sister’s keeper” as well as her name and the dates of her birth and death.
She was everything, she still is everything. She's gone now. She’s the chip on my shoulder that I use every day. It gets me out of the bed, it gets me to focus on the things I have to take care of. In the next couple of days it will give me a jump start on my NFL career to become the best running back I can be.