DeAngelo Williams: the player and the man

By
Updated: February 27, 2013

Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams has quietly put on one of the most outstanding careers of the past five years.

Invisible hero

I want to introduce you to one of my personal heroes. You may not be very familiar with him, because he plays for a small-market team that hasn’t won more than eight games since 2008. His team is so laden with talent at his position that although he could start for almost any other team in the league, he shares reps with his teammate. He is a man of character and integrity.

Meet Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams.

Williams has been carrying teams since before he entered the league. He took Memphis, a university that had been futile in college football its entire history, to three straight bowl games, winning two. He rewrote the school and NCAA record books and was a Heisman vote recipient.

In 2006, he impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine, with the result that he was drafted in the first round (27th overall).

Quick start

As a rookie backup, Williams surpassed the starting running back in yards per carry and yards per reception, only fumbling the ball a fifth as many times. Yet head coach John Fox insisted on starting the veterans, so Williams did not have the opportunity to shine until his third season.

Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams shares another hard-fought victory with the fans.

Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams shares another hard-fought victory with the fans.Williams after another hard fought win sharing it with the fans.

In 2008, when he finally ascended to the starting position, his production was a shock to almost everyone in the football world.

Rusher Yards Yds/Att 20+ TDs Fumbles
Adrian Peterson (MIN) 1760 4.8 20 10 9
Michael Turner (ATL) 1699 4.5 11 17 3
Clinton Portis (WAS) 1487 4.3 13 9 3
DeAngelo Williams (CAR) 1515 5.5 15 18 0

Amazingly, although Adrian Peterson, Clinton Portis, and Michael Turner all went to the Pro Bowl that year, Williams was snubbed.

Williams’ situation was complicated by the fact that in 2008, Carolina had drafted another first-round stud, Jonathan Stewart, who even as a backup, put on an impressive showing: 836 yards, 4.5 ypc, 10 touchdowns, and two fumbles. Between the two of them, Williams and Stewart set the league record for most rushing yards by a pair of teammates.

Then in 2009, they both topped 1,100 yards, and Williams found himself stuck in a full-fledged timeshare situation. Two years later, quarterback Cam Newton, another first-round pick, arrived to poach even more touches, yards and touchdowns.

Outstanding career

Nevertheless, Williams has made the most of his situation. He has been nothing short of prolific:

  • He has rushed 1169 times for 5,784 (4.9 ypc) on his career.
  • In the games Williams has started, Carolina is 30-30. In games he hasn’t, they’re 20-32.
  • His WCSN rusher rating (WRR) is the highest of any current No. 1 running back in the NFL at 67.55.
  • He owns the highest single-season WRR of the past decade for rushers with a minimum of 250 carries at 97.23.
  • He has contributed 187 receptions on 205 targets for 52 first downs and an 8.5 ypc average.
  • Among all active running backs, he ranks 17th in ypg, 11th in touchdowns, 10th in total yards, and third in ypc.
  • He holds he NCAA record for most 100-yard rushing performances and ranks fourth all time in rushing yards.

To put Williams’ career in perspective, consider the fact that only five running backs in the history of the league have averaged at least 4.9 ypc over 1,000 or more attempts: Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, Barry Sanders, Adrian Peterson and DeAngelo Williams. Three of this men are in the Hall of Fame, and Peterson will surely be someday. Williams is a member of a truly elite short list.

Clearly, the numbers he puts up aren’t some statistical fluke. If we remove the longest run from each of his seasons, he still averages over 4.6 ypc. If we remove the longest run from every one of his games, his averages 3.5 yards per carry.

The question that has to be asked, then, is this: Why is Carolina squandering what could be a Hall of Fame career by platooning Williams with another star back?

DeAngelo the man

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of DeAngelo Williams is that he has never once complained about his lot. When a threat to his playing time was drafted in the first round, Williams was the first to welcome him. On every touchdown run, whether it Williams or Stewart who scores, they exchange a ritual chest bump, a tradition that was initiated by Williams.

Williams rarely speaks to the media, but when he does, it’s always to give the credit to his team. On the day he set a franchise record for rushing yards in a game with 206, he said:

It feels good to just get the opportunities that were given to me today, or just the running backs in general. The (offensive) line was moving guys off the ball. I think everything was working in our favor today.

When asked about his Heisman nomination, his response was quintessential DeAngelo Williams:

I call my offensive line my pit crew. And the fans are my fuel. Without them, there is no Heisman hype.

An outstanding member of his community, Williams goes about his charitable pursuits quietly, never drawing attention to himself. He carries that ethic onto the practice field, where he runs every play to the end zone before returning to the huddle. He seeks to prove to his teammates that every time he gets the ball, he does everything possible to take it to the house.

Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams stands with his mother, a five-year survivor of breast cancer.

Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams stands with his mother, a five-year survivor of breast cancer.

There is no question in my mind that DeAngelo Williams is a Hall of Fame-caliber player. He epitomizes class, professionalism, and teamwork. In spite of his Herculean efforts and immense talent, though, the world may never see him in that same light. It’s likely that he will be a cap casualty this offseason.

Hopefully he can catch on with a team like the New York Giants or Green Bay Packers, where his talents and character can be put on display and the rest of the nation can see what Panthers fans already know.

As Williams himself once said, “I think one personality and one hard worker can change the work ethic of others and influence change in a team.” It makes me proud to have rooted for a man who lives what he speaks.

Keep pounding, DeAngelo Williams. I wish you godspeed.

About the author

A self-described NFL addict and "stats geek," Robert J. Russ loves to demolish conventional wisdom with cold, hard numbers. When reputation doesn't jive with reality, he plows tirelessly through play-by-play charts and statistical tables to separate fact from fiction. A military brat who was born in California, raised in North Carolina, and bounced between the two states through college, Russ has lived in Coastal Carolina since 1990. He owns a small pest-control business and a free fantasy football and NFL betting line website. Feel free to contact him at with questions, comments, or ideas for future articles.

467 comments
thebaskett
thebaskett

so with A Smith going to the Chefs.. The chefs have to be taking one of the top tackles either Joeckel or Fisher

Bro Montana
Bro Montana

 one would think, but KC doesn't seem to be making very intelligent decisions

thebaskett
thebaskett

  well, they have a brand new GM so you cant really take the past into consideration for this draft

andylet445
andylet445

this reminded me of that snickers commercial.

thebaskett
thebaskett

  thats the idea.. greatest commercial ever

Maized and Confused
Maized and Confused moderator like.author.displayName 1 Like

This place is slowing down, so here's a joke:

Manti Te'o walks into an empty strip club, spends $300

Bro Montana
Bro Montana

 and then wonders why the money is just sitting there

JVince 11
JVince 11 moderator like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like


Well i am out for the day bitches....

El Oso Blanco
El Oso Blanco

So my FFL is thinking about giving out rings to the champion starting next year. I think its a great idea. The rings arent that expensive, they are about $280-300. This will be awesome!

andylet445
andylet445

cock rings are nice but you can get them much cheaper at any adult store.

adambballn
adambballn like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 4 Like

   If you guys are down with it... I personally would rather just have the money.

jwoude23 Bear Down
jwoude23 Bear Down moderator like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

JVince 11
JVince 11 moderator

 Ron Artest... his career died faster than Terrell Buckley's

Um...
Um... moderator

I just watched Robot Combat League on SyFy. It was both kind of cool and kind of bad.

Maized and Confused
Maized and Confused moderator

 

Sounds like SyFy on the whole.

Um...
Um... moderator

  Indeed. I have kind of liked o a lot of their series'. But just kind of.

JVince 11
JVince 11 moderator

  Pirahnaconda... love those B movies.