Home for a Minute
Andre Williams hadn’t been home since Christmas.
The months before the NFL draft are a waiting game, but a frenetic one. It wasn’t until last Thursday, the day after Williams’ pro day at Boston College, when he returned to the house on a hill in Pennsylvania. That’s where his parents live, along with his little brother, Kareem, and two dogs, Sasha and Sam. It's also where his Doak Walker Award, given to college football’s best running back, sits on the nightstand in his old room.
“It’s Schnecksville, Pa.,” Williams says. “From the name, you know it’s just a real chill, rural place.”
The kind of sleepy town, he explains, where if you hop in your car and put your foot on the gas, you feel like you’ll end up at your destination ... eventually. That’s just what Williams needed, with the draft still about two months away but the grind of his pre-draft auditioning process—a journey we’re chronicling on The MMQB—starting to wear him down a bit.
The downside, though, is that in a sleepy town, a Heisman finalist sticks out. So everywhere Williams went, he respectfully doled out autographs: At the assisted living facility where his mom works as a nurse’s assistant, and back at Parkland High School during Kareem’s track practice.
“It’s weird, because everyone thinks of him as a superstar,” says Kareem, a senior at Parkland. “I never really thought of him like that; I just thought of him as an older brother. It’s exciting, and I’m happy for him. But for me, I think it’s still weird.”
Andre is the third of four children, each born four years apart. His parents, Lancelene and Ervin, are Jamaican immigrants. Ervin, who works long hours in New Jersey as a commercial heating and air-conditioning contractor, instilled in Williams the robust work ethic that led to 355 rushes for 2,177 yards as a senior at Boston College. Lancelene showed Williams, whom one of his college coaches describes as an old soul, how to be “whole-hearted.”
Williams’ visit home—accompanied by his girlfriend, Carolyn Jay, a senior at BC—was occasion for one of the family’s traditional Sunday dinners. Ervin barbequed chicken and cooked the lamb, and Williams whipped up homemade Jerk BBQ sauce. Lancelene prepared rice, mixed vegetables and red snapper, too. The current holding pattern of Williams’ life is both exciting and stressful, and home and family were a needed respite.
“To recharge my batteries,” he says.
Williams didn’t hear from any NFL teams in the days after his pro day. One scout who attended the workout told him to expect that, because Williams is something of a known commodity—which is a very good thing in the eyes of NFL personnel evaluators. But this only escalates to the uncertainty of what’s next, in both the small picture—the coming weeks—and the big one: Who will call his name on draft day?
Those were the questions, of course, asked by the head football coach and athletic director at Parkland when Williams visited this week. Williams played at Parkland for two years, after his family moved from Georgia, and within the past few months, the school retired his No. 44 high school jersey. Williams wanted to thank them personally. Perhaps most keenly observing Williams’ path to the NFL, however, is Kareem.
Kareem is a running back, and also like his big brother, he rushed for more than 1,900 yards in his senior season at Parkland. That feat, he says, will earn him a picture in the gymnasium’s Hall of Fame—right next to his brother’s. He’ll play on scholarship next fall at the University of Delaware for head coach Dave Brock, who was an assistant coach at Boston College during the elder Williams’ freshman and sophomore seasons.
Kareem, who compared rushing yards with his brother week by week during the 2013 season, is certain the parallels will not end there.
“It will be good to see him proving our family can be big in the NFL,” says Kareem. “In my head, it’s like an Eli Manning and a Peyton Manning. Hopefully, when I make it to the NFL, it will be another thing like that, where we are both on top of the league.”
So, maybe there is some pressure back in Schnecksville after all.