The Scare of His Life . . . and the Scar to Prove It
Andre Williams has been running wild ever since he can remember. Not even a horrific hit-and-run car accident when he was a toddler could keep him down for long. In his own words, the Boston College tailback recalls that fateful collision
Since late February, The MMQB has been chronicling the draft journey of Boston College running back Andre Williams, whom we first introduced at the combine as RB 35. Along the way, we’ve covered his pro day in Chestnut Hill, gone back home with him to “a real chill, rural place” called Schnecksville, Pa.—where Williams keeps his Doak Walker trophy on a nightstand in his childhood bedroom—and gotten to know him as a businessman who already is planning for life after football.
Far from your typical NFL prospect, Williams has been writing a book—a philosophical memoir, he calls it—titled A King, a Queen and a Conscience. He started putting his thoughts on paper the summer after his sophomore year of college, long before an NFL future was certain, to explore how his own life experiences have shaped his worldview. During a pre-draft visit to one NFL team’s headquarters last week, an offensive coach delighted in this off-field pursuit, telling Williams that it would no doubt set him apart in the running backs room.
Below, we’ve excerpted a chapter that tells the true story about one of the hardest hits this punishing tailback has ever taken.
By Andre Williams
My parents tell me that when I was very little, I loved to do two things. I loved to eat, and I loved to run. My mother details stories of how she would always have to make sure there was a bottle ready for me as a baby, because after waking from a nap I would cry incessantly until I was fed. As a toddler, I would open the refrigerator just to drink my fill from the milk gallon before leaving the open container on the floor where I stood, fridge ajar. As soon as I was old enough, I ran everywhere I could. The farthest back I can remember is a memory at 2 years old. It was a time shortly before the accident. It’s daytime, and I am outside walking down a neatly paved walkway leading from the front door to the sidewalk beyond a fenced yard. I make it to the sidewalk, turn right and take off, tearing down the runway. I am picking up speed fast, but before I get six or seven steps my dad grabs my left arm firmly, and I am stopped in my tracks. We are out in front of the house on Randolph Road.
My love of running would cause great tragedy and hardship in my life before anything else. However, that tragedy would serve as the first discipline of God’s great love that he would express to me in my lifetime. My mother would say to us when we were younger, “Everything Satan intends for evil, God turns around for good.” I guess you can say that it was my love for running that Satan would eventually use to threaten my life and inflict intense emotional distress on my family. Through it all, I continue to count my blessings as I can clearly see that it is my God-given ability to run that has brought exceedingly great blessings into my life—and to my family.
The next memory I have, my arms and legs are strapped down. I can’t lift my head up, but for some reason I really don’t want to. I am very tired and there is a dull pain in my head. I am on a sidewalk lying on a stretcher. Across the street there is a school, and I am watching a red helicopter land on its athletic field. I fade back out.
We were living in Plainfield, N.J., and my mother had decided to take my older brother Danique and me with her to go food shopping. As Danique tells it, I was only playing a game, jerking out of his grip and running up ahead of him to hide behind things—fire hydrants, telephone poles, parked cars. He was only 10, and even though he told me to stop repeatedly and continued to grip my hand, the only thing that was going to stop me from running that day was the car.
The last time I jerked away, I ran up ahead of Danique and mom and then dipped to the right, between two cars and into the street. There was a loud sound next, like two heavy objects meeting each other violently, and then the sound of a woman screaming. No one can recall if it was my mother. It was a hit-and-run. Witnesses pounded on the suspect’s car windows as he attempted his getaway. My body had been thrown into the air by the impact with the car, and I rolled without life under a parked vehicle. Mom says that it was a man, alerted by her intense distress and consequently blessed with her maternal crisis instinct strength response, who lifted the car so someone could pull me out from under it. Somewhere between the impact and the landing, my forehead was gashed open and a fleshy white mass poked out of the laceration. My mother was with me in the ambulance and the emergency room as my nurse assistant, which is still her occupation to this day.
I remember entering the hospital in a caged stretcher, the pain of the tube in my urethra, and being surrounded by a lot of people in the night. The sun woke me the next day. There was butterscotch pudding on my food tray and the cartoon Chip and Dale played on the television mounted in the left corner of the room. My mother says the doctor told her I suffered head trauma and my heart had stopped for 10 whole minutes before I was resuscitated. He told her there was a chance I might suffer permanent brain damage from the blow to my cranial region and the period of low oxygen levels in my brain—if I even woke up at all. They didn’t know I had woken up shortly after the accident to watch the helicopter land before it transported me to the hospital.
To everyone’s surprise, I did wake up from my accident and I was OK—perhaps better than OK. I was released from the hospital two days later, because I was already running around the place. I walked away with bruised lungs, seven itchy stitches in my forehead, and some minor cuts and bruises. The nurses said I was a miracle baby. My family soon started to notice another peculiar thing about me after that car accident. Everyone says I started using big words. My sister Krystal describes me at that age as “a little old man.” The only artifacts I have from the accident are a thin scar several inches in length directly below my hairline, and a child-sized neck brace.
My human development degree reminds me that the part of the brain located there is called the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex, or PFC, is responsible for the planning and execution of complex cognitive behavior, which may include, but is not limited to, decision-making, expression of personality and moderation of social behavior. The PFC also coordinates thoughts and actions in accordance with internal goals. Perhaps the accident somehow kick-started, rather than retarded, the development of this brain region; however, this is only a theory, and playing in traffic is certainly not a proven method for giving your children an edge over their peers.
At the end of it all, a court case led to a sum of money being placed away for me that I couldn’t touch until I was 18. My older brother took the brunt of the blame for the accident, and he says to this day that my father never truly forgave him for letting it happen. I never blamed my brother for the accident, and although it must have been very traumatic for everyone affected by it, I don’t have any recollection of the accident actually occurring. And it certainly didn’t slow me down. I’ve been running stronger ever since.
Maybe I needed to meet the car. Perhaps my first genuine football experience occurred that day on the tarmac, rather than on the gridiron. It might have been the car that piqued my hunger for high-impact collisions.