BOULDER — Alfred Williams, one of the key figures in the University of Colorado football team’s rise to national prominence in the late 1980s, will become the fifth Buffalo to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, the National Football Foundation announced Thursday.
Williams, 41, who still resides in the metro Denver area (Centennial) will be the second youngest Colorado player to go into the Hall. He is a member of a very impressive overall class, as he will be inducted with 13 others this December in New York City.
Joining Williams, an outside linebacker/defensive end, are 11 players: Dennis Byrd (DT, North Carolina State), Ronnie Caveness (C, Arkansas), Ray Childress (DL, Texas A&M), Randy Cross (OG, UCLA), Sam Cunningham (RB, Southern California), Mark Herrmann (QB, Purdue), Clarkston Hines (WR, Duke), Desmond Howard (WR, Michigan), Chet Moeller (DB, Navy), Jerry Stovall (HB, Louisiana State) and the late Pat Tillman (Arizona State). Two retired coaches also were elected, Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin) and Gene Stallings (Texas A&M, Alabama).
Williams is the third youngest player of the newest dozen who will be enshrined; his final season was 1990, while Howard completed his career the following year and Tillman in 1997.
Alfred Williams reacts to the news he will join the College Football Hall of Fame. CU AD Mike Bohn and Associate AD David Plati informed Williams during his afternoon radio show on KKFN
Photo Courtesy: KKFN
This was the third year Williams was on the national ballot, which usually numbers around 75 candidates (77 this year), as he first appeared in 2008. Two other Buffaloes were also on the ballot, former head coach Bill McCartney and tailback Eric Bieniemy; both were candidates for the first time and automatically advance to subsequent national ballots for the next decade. The minimum requirement for players is first-team All-America mention at least one season.
He was informed of his selection by CU athletic director Mike Bohn live on his radio show Wednesday afternoon, and the often emotional Williams first screamed and then broke into tears. He heard from almost 100 former teammates and coaches the remainder of the day either by phone, E-mail or text message, while some called in to the show.
"Our hats are off to Alfred for his prominence on the football field beyond CU, but also what he continues to stand for as it relates to our football program, athletic department and the entire university," Bohn said. “Many feel that it is more than appropriate that Alfred is the first to go in from the national championship team not only because what he meant to that team, but how he has represented and supported the university through the years.”
“I am so proud and honored by this, but it’s a tribute to my teammates and coaches,” Williams said. “I was honestly speechless when I found out. A lot of people deserve to go into the College Football Hall of Fame but they select so few, so I am both humble and proud to represent all my teammates as the first to go in from our national championship team. Hopefully there will be others, including Coach Mac. I’m so proud of all the guys I played with over the years at CU, they were my family.”
Alfred Williams was a two-time Big 8 Conference Defensive Player of the Year and won the 1990 Butkus Award
Williams was a member of one of the most decorated recruiting classes in CU history, as the 1987 group added to the foundation for McCartney’s teams to take things up a notch to eventually win three straight Big Eight Conference titles from 1989-91 and the consensus national championship in 1990. Williams was a standout player all four of his seasons, first playing as a true freshman in 1987 and culminating with his selection as a unanimous All-American and the Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker as a senior in 1990. He was a consensus All-American as junior in 1989 when he was one of four finalists for the Lombardi Award along with teammate and childhood friend, Kanavis McGhee.
Williams’ Butkus Award was the first major trophy honoring an individual won by a Colorado player. During his career, CU was 37-10-1, including a 22-6 mark in Big 8 Conference games (22-2-1 and 14-0, respectively, his junior and senior seasons when he was a unanimous All-Big Eight performer and two-time league defensive player-of-the-year).
Williams finished his career with 263 tackles (180 solo), the 10th most at the time in school history (still 23rd overall). His 59 tackles for loss and 35 quarterback sacks are both still school bests, along with the 303 and 242 yards lost, respectively, for each category. He had at least one sack in 28 of 48 career games (including a streak of 10 straight games to open 1990), and led the Big Eight Conference in sacks as a junior (10½) and senior (12½). He also had 53 quarterback hurries (second all-time), 42 third down stops (third) and 25 passes broken up (11th). He was the recipient of CU’s Dave Jones Award as the team’s defensive MVP his junior and senior years.
He was second-team All-Big Eight as a sophomore, a season in which he had one of his best “monster” games. In a 24-21 win at Iowa, he had seven tackles, four for losses including two sacks, a forced fumble, a recovery, a pass deflection and a blocked punt.
Williams had his #94 retired and is a 2008 inductee into the Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame.
McCartney and assistant coach Steve Logan recruited Williams out of Houston’s Jesse Jones High School, one of several top players from the state the coaches convinced to come north and play for the Buffaloes.
Byron “Whizzer” White and Joe Romig were the first two Buffaloes to enter the Hall, inducted in 1952 and 1984, respectively, and followed by the Anderson brothers, with Dick inducted in 1993 and Bobby in 2006. White was a back and Romig a guard/linebacker in the old platoon days, while Dick Anderson was a safety and Bobby Anderson a tailback.
Williams is thus the second fastest to be inducted into the Hall, exactly 20 years since he last suited up for the Buffaloes; White was inducted 15 years after his collegiate playing days. Williams will also be the first African-American from CU inducted into the Hall, and is one of just a handful who has won a national championship and a Super Bowl playing for a school and then a pro team in the same state. CU won the consensus national championship in 1990, and the Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl following the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
Alfred Williams won a pair of Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos.
McCartney was asked what comes to mind when he hears Alfred’s name.
“Potential. Extraordinary potential. The sky’s the limit. How high is up. He had it all,” McCartney said. “He could run, he could jump, he was instinctive, smart. He was light on his feet. He was unrelenting, persevering. It was just a matter of how much he wanted to put into it because he had the whole package. He had native strength; he was wiry, he was explosive even though he’ll readily admit that he didn’t wear out the weight room. The great ones are instinctive; he just had a sense about him. He basically knew before they snapped the ball if they were running, throwing or coming at you with the option, and you can’t coach that.
“When he was at his best, he was the best,” McCartney continued. “When he wanted it bad, look out. You couldn’t keep him out of the backfield. He loved to compete. He was the consummate defensive end or outside linebacker, whatever we designated him as on the depth chart. He could rush, he could drop back and cover, he could help double-team anyone. All the adjectives you could use to describe a great one, you could apply to Alfred.
“He was the type of guy who played his best games in the big games. When he was physically and emotionally prepared, he was dominant. When we needed him most, he came up big. Alfred would stand out today, guys like him don’t come along very often. He’s as talented as anyone Colorado has ever had, and I’m proud of him for receiving this recognition.”
Williams was asked to select a memory or two from his playing days.
“My junior year against Illinois,” he recalled first. “Looking up and seeing Sal (Aunese) in the press box stairwell. I’ll never forget before the game Sal was standing up with his oxygen tank, pumping his fist, cheering us on. (Aunese, CU’s starting quarterback the previous two seasons, passed away the following Saturday after a six-month battle with stomach cancer.)
“That was the last game he saw before he passed way, so it was a special moment to sack (Illinois quarterback) Jeff George, look up at Sal and give him a fist pump. For me, that was the absolute best moment for me as a player, because how important that game was, how good Illinois was (ranked No. 10), how good Jeff George was and Sal being there, still fighting in what would be the last week of his life. It was amazing watching Illinois on film and we knew we had a helluva challenge. We had to get pressure on George, and we got after him pretty good. We beat them up bad (38-7) and held a really good offense to under 200 yards (193). That game kind of cemented us and got us going, told people we were for real.”
His second memory was from his senior year, when CU rallied to beat Texas 29-22 in Austin, his first and only college game he played in his native state. He had 10 tackles and two sacks in that game, one for a safety that accounted for the final points in the game.
“I remember that fourth quarter of the Texas game my senior year when we took over,” Williams said. “It had been so long since we were in that kind in situation, trailing on the road in the fourth quarter (22-14) in a hostile environment, I am pretty sure for the first time since my sophomore year.
“EB (Eric Bieniemy) led the offense out on the field between the third and fourth quarter to fire up the defense, what many say was the turning point of the season. It worked, and we held them to a field goal, the offense came back and I was fortunate to end the game with a sack in the end zone for a safety to seal the deal. But very rarely did we correspond so-to-speak during the game because EB was offense and I was defense and we were seldom on the sidelines at the same time.
“Later that year, I sat next to him on the bench at Nebraska after he had fumbled three or four times. We had the ball, but it was one of those rare times he wasn’t in the game. He didn’t want to hear much and kind of wanted to be left alone, his head hanging a bit, but there was a moment where he looked me in the eye, and I told him we’ll get you the ball back for the offense and for him to go out there and do his thing. He scored four times in the fourth quarter, and after the first score, we met at the 25-yard line and high fived each other.”
McCartney and his staff mined Texas, particularly the Houston area, for several players in the mid-1980s, but it wasn’t easy since most of those players could have gone anywhere in the nation.
Williams helped CU claim back-to-back Big 8 Championships and Orange Bowl appearances.
McCartney was also asked if he had a particular play or memory that stood out when he thought about Williams in a Buff uniform.
“What I remember most about Alfred isn’t a tackle, or a sack, or even his catch when we allowed him to play tight end in his final home game,” McCartney said. “It’s the halftime of the 1990 Nebraska game, we were trailing 6-0, it was cold, it was raining and we were our own worst enemy. We came into the lockerroom to make our adjustments ... the coaches decide what is and what isn’t working, correct mistakes, what we haven’t shown yet that we might want to use. Halftime is a busy time, it’s not really rah-rah time.
“But what I recall most about that halftime was Alfred. He was fiery ... determined. He had the kind of spirit that the great ones have. They just can’t stomach or tolerate defeat. When they want something bad enough, they can’t be denied. At halftime, I normally didn’t say much, but there comes the time for the head coach to say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do.’ But Alfred took over, he was the head coach that halftime. That’s what I remember, more than any play, more than any practice. We were pinned into a corner and our dream was slipping away. And that’s when Alfred was at his best. The emotion that he was showing, the determination, just the way he was expressing himself said to his teammates that we were going to go out there and take this thing over. And we did.”
“That was probably my defining moment as a player, as the captain of the team,” Williams said. “We really weren’t in many dire situations, and that was our time and we had to take care of business. I partially went off because on our way into the lockerroom, a Nebraska fan held up a sign that said, “Where is Sal now?” That was opposite of everything I had ever believed or heard about NU fans, just so very uncharacteristic, and it was just that one fan at that one moment. Since we were down 6-0, in the rain, and the fact that the last time there we lost 7-0 and should have won, that sign just pushed me over the top. I’m sure everyone could see the veins sticking out on my neck. There was absolutely no way we were going to lose that game under any circumstances.”
Williams led Colorado to the 1990 national championship.
He has remained close with his CU position coach, Bob Simmons, through the years, even after he left Colorado to become head coach at Oklahoma State and then as an assistant elsewhere; he is currently at Portland State. They were so close that Williams gave him replica of the Butkus Award trophy to Simmons.
"I could not be happier for him and his family after all that Al has done during the course of his career," Simmons said. "I’ve been blessed to be around some great players and to have coached some great players, and he ranks up there with all of the best."
“Al being elected into the Hall of Fame in my mind kind of solidifies him making the decision to come to Colorado and leaving Texas,” McGhee said. “We both got a lot of grief for leaving Texas, so I personally know what he went through. But we made a promise to make people know who we were from Colorado, and this caps it all off. He became one of the top players to ever play college football ... it’s a great thing and another chapter in his book for a guy who’s well deserving.” McGhee and Williams were featured on the regional cover of The Sporting News’ 1989 college football preview magazine.
When asked who else should join him in the Hall from those teams, Williams responded with, “my senior class.” That group was totally centered. EB, George Hemingway, Kanavis, Mike Pritchard, the guys who started at Colorado with me, I’d take them all. That would be fine with me. All had unbelievable heart. It was competition to make plays, you wanted to finish off a tackle before Greg Thomas or Tim James came by and speared you in the back. The thing to do was to make the Victory Club. We could win a game, and if you didn’t play well, you didn’t get that jersey to wear on Monday.
“Ultimately, it was all about one thing. When we looked at the scoreboard, we were winning. All our hard work paid off and has since. It was just a dream. I’ve been around many players in the pros, but they just didn’t seem to have the same relationship that we all had on those Colorado teams.
“Greg Thomas got on a plane this morning to attend my son’s graduation,” Williams continued. “I babysat for George Hemingway’s kids, and Mark Hatcher babysat for mine. Jim Smith and I carpooled our kids for two years. We just had unbelievable relationships. I must talk to Lance Carl once a week, guys like Eric McCarty and Solomon Wilcots, who I didn’t even play with, once a month. Solomon was great for personal advice, E-Mac’s been awesome for medical stuff. I went into business with CJ (Charles Johnson). We’ve buried teammates; we’ve been there at births, marriages. A lot of us play golf together. It’s a long list of many former Buffs, players, coaches, staff we have all remained in touch with. It’s all in the family.
“It’s been my life, the one part that’s consistently been great. I have been blessed.”
Williams went on to play nine years in the NFL, and after stints with Cincinnati and San Francisco, finished his career with the Denver Broncos where in addition to playing for two Super Bowl champion teams, he earned All-Pro honors at defensive end in 1996. The Bengals drafted him in the first round of the 1991 draft, making him the 18th pick overall. He would play in 128 NFL games in his career, racking up 59½ quarterback sacks.
How special is induction and enshrinement into the College Hall of Fame? Prior to this class, of the 4.72 million people who have played college football since 1869, only 870 players and 188 coaches have been selected for the Hall.
He was born November 6, 1968 in Houston and was a sociology major at Colorado. He earned a host of All-America honors as a high school senior, when he had 123 tackles, 18 quarterback sacks and 33 tackles for loss. He was an accomplished basketball player, averaging 24 points and 10 rebounds as a senior. He also threw the discus in track.
The honor caps a special week for the Williams family, as his oldest son, Dominique, graduates today from Grandview High School.
ALFRED WILLIAMS CAPSULE BIOGRAPHY
#94, OLB, 6-6, 240, 4L, Houston, Texas (Jesse Jones)
A unanimous first-team All-American as a senior in 1990 from all seven recognized organizations by NCAA, and a consensus first-teamer as a junior in 1989 (all but the Associated Press and The Sporting News, though AP did name him second-team)... A Playboy Preseason All-American prior to his senior year... He became the first University of Colorado player to win a postseason trophy when he was honored with the Butkus Award as the nation’s most outstanding linebacker his senior season (1990)... A two-time first-team All-Big Eight Conference performer as a junior and senior, he was also the Big Eight’s Defensive Player-of-the-Year both those seasons... Had 88 tackles, 21 for losses as a senior and 81 and 16, respectively, as a junior... In the final regular season game of his career against Kansas State, he lined up a couple of plays on offense and caught a pass for 17 yards in the 64-3 blasting of the Wildcats... Ended his career as and remains CU’s all-time quarterback sack leader (35 for 242 yards), but only had as many as three sacks in a game just once... Also CU’s all-time leader in tackles for loss (59 for 303 yards)... A two-time winner of the Dave Jones Award, given to the outstanding defensive player as voted by the coaches (1989, 1990)... The national defensive player-of-the-week as a sophomore for his mini-career in a CU win at Iowa: seven solo tackles, four for losses including two sacks, a forced fumble and a recovery, a pass deflection and a blocked punt... An honorable mention member of CU’s All-Century team, selected in 1989... Joined CU’s basketball team for a brief stint between his junior and senior seasons (1989-90); he played in one game, but didn’t want to risk his football future (he had a rebound and a steal in a loss at Kansas)... A first round selection by Cincinnati in the 1991 NFL Draft (18th overall)... He played his first four years with the Bengals (1991-94; he was in on 161 tackles including 26½ quarterback sacks)... He then moved on to San Francisco for one season (1995) before spending the last four years of his career with Denver, where he won two Super Bowl rings in 1997 and 1998... He registered 28½ sacks during his time in Denver, including 13 in 1996... An All-Pro defensive end in 1996... He played in 128 career NFL games, racking up 59½ quarterback sacks and one fumble return for a touchdown... Now a Denver radio personality for KKFN (104.3 fm), hosting his own afternoon talk show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays.
Season G Plays UT AT— TOT TFL Sacks 3DS QBH FR FF PBU Int
1987 11 320 24 11— 35 11- 39 6-31 8 7 1 2 10 0
1988 11 674 43 16— 59 11- 56 6-43 9 6 2 2 4 0
1989 11 586 58 23— 81 16-104 10½-92 11 14 0 0 5 0
1990 12 736 55 33— 88 21-104 12½-76 14 26 1 2 6 0
Totals 45 2316 180 83—263 59-303 35-242 42 53 4 6 25 0
ADDITIONAL CAREER STATISTICS—Receiving: 1-17, 17.0 avg., 0 TD.