Williams during his years with St. Louis.
January 29, 1968 |
New Orleans, Louisiana
|High school:||New Orleans (LA) Fortier|
|NFL Draft:||1991 / Round: 3 / Pick: 59|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
Aeneas Demetrius Williams (//; (born January 29, 1968) is a former American football player, who played with the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for Southern University and was drafted in the third round (59th overall) of the 1991 NFL Draft. Williams was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014. Aeneas started out as a cornerback then switched to free safety later in his career.
Williams attended Southern University, the same school his brother Achilles attended. At Southern, Williams concentrated on his academics, not playing football until his junior year, as a graduate student. That year, he tied the NCAA Division I-AA record for most interceptions.
Despite playing only two years in college, Williams' numbers impressed the then-Phoenix Cardinals enough that they selected him in the third round of the 1991 NFL Draft, Williams quickly established himself with an exceptional rookie season, tying the NFC lead for interceptions. In 1994, he led the NFL in interceptions with 9. By 1997, Williams had already notched four Pro Bowl appearances and had established himself as the Cardinals' top cornerback, routinely covering the opponents' lead receivers. In the 1998 season, Williams helped the Cardinals win their first playoff game since 1947 by intercepting two passes from Troy Aikman in a 20–7 win over the Dallas Cowboys, and added another interception in the Cardinals 41–21 loss in the divisional round. Despite playing mostly for bad teams (1998 was the only time he played on a winning team during his 10 years in Arizona), Williams was recognized as one of the best cornerbacks in the league, making six Pro Bowls in all as a Cardinal. He is regarded as one of the best defenders and players in Cardinals history, as well as one of the greatest shutdown corners of all time. In 2000, he tied an NFL record, held by Jack Tatum of the Oakland Raiders, by returning a fumble (caused by Mark Maddox) 104 yards for a touchdown in a game against the Washington Redskins.
In Week 3 of the 1999 season, in a game played at Sun Devil Stadium and nationally televised on Monday Night Football, Williams delivered the hit which ultimately ended Hall of Fame San Francisco 49ers' quarterback Steve Young's career. Williams came in on a cornerback blitz from Young's blindside and scored a violent but clean hit on Young. Running back Lawrence Phillips was supposed to block Williams, but missed. This left Young unconscious on the field for several minutes. Young suffered a severe concussion that effectively ended his career; he didn't play again for the rest of the season, after which the 49ers all but forced him to retire.
In 2001, Williams was traded to the St. Louis Rams on draft day in exchange for picks in the second and fourth rounds. Due to roster concerns, Williams switched to free safety. As one of the leaders of a much-improved defense, Williams got a chance to play in the postseason for only the second time in his career. In the Rams divisional playoff game against the Green Bay Packers prior to the Super Bowl, Williams returned two interceptions from Packers quarterback Brett Favre for touchdowns and recovered a fumble. Then in the NFC title game, he intercepted a pass from Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, with 2 minutes left in regulation, clinching the game and ensuring the Rams' berth in Super Bowl XXXVI. However, the Rams lost that game to the New England Patriots.
After a lackluster season, in which he ended on the injured reserve list, Williams quietly retired during the 2005 offseason. Over his career he accumulated a staggering 12 defensive touchdowns (9 interceptions returned for a touchdown, and 3 fumbles recovered for touchdowns), and 55 career interceptions, cementing his place as one of the most dominating defensive backs of his era. He also recovered 23 fumbles and gained 1,075 total defensive return yards (807 from interceptions and 268 from fumbles). He was also a 4-time All-Pro selection.
Though the teams he played on rarely made the playoffs (Williams had just 4 playoff seasons in his 14 years), Williams made the most of his postseason opportunities when they occurred, intercepting 6 passes and recovering one fumble in his first four playoff games.
Williams was inducted into the Arizona Cardinals' Ring of Honor during the 2008–2009 football season during halftime of the Monday Night Football game against the San Francisco 49ers November 10, 2008. On January 18, 2009, Williams was chosen to present the George Halas Trophy to the Arizona Cardinals after their victory in the NFC Championship game, resulting in the Cardinals first trip to the Super Bowl. He made his final appearance in a football videogame in NFL Street 2, which was released in 2004.
Williams is currently the founding pastor of Spirit Church in St. Louis. He and his wife Tracy have three daughters Saenea (Aeneas spelled backwards), Tirzah, Cheyenne, and a son, Lazarus.
Williams was a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame classes of 2012 and 2013 but did not get voted in on the final ballots both times. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on February 1, 2014, and inducted on August 2.
On September 24, 2014, Williams was inducted into the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame.
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