Roydell Williams completed his career as Tulane's and Conference USA's greatest receivers.
Oct. 2, 2013
This is the fourth of a five part series featuring the 2013 Tulane Athletics Hall of Fame Class. The 2013 induction ceremonies will take place on Thursday, Oct. 3 from 6-9 p.m. at the Lavin-Bernick Center on the Tulane University Uptown campus.
They say to be successful in anything; it all comes down to making the right decisions. For former Tulane football standout Roydell Williams, those decisions led him down a path that steered away from a professional baseball career, to an All-American career with the Green Wave, to a stint in the NFL and to - ultimately - a spot in the Tulane Athletics Hall of Fame.
A native of Reserve, Williams attended East St. John High School, where he was a standout in football, baseball and basketball - earning all-district honors in all three sports and all-state recognition in both football and baseball. Rated the No. 10 prospect in the state and earning four-star rating from recruiting services, Williams was recruited by the likes of Georgia Tech, Florida, LSU and Texas A&M. To further cloud the matter, he was drafted in the fifth round of the 2000 Major League Baseball Draft by the Cincinnati Reds, who offered a lucrative deal but not the chance to play collegiate football.
"Coming out of high school I had a lot of options with football and baseball," Williams said. "I was drafted and I had offers from a lot of respected colleges. I decided to come here because I really value education and Tulane is one of the top schools in the nation. Everything I needed was right here. I was able to stay home and my family was right up the street. They could come see the games, and that means a lot to any football player."
Williams made an immediate impact on the program as a true freshman in 2000 when he hauled in 26 passes for 338 yards and a pair of touchdowns to claim a spot on the Conference USA All-Freshman Team. The following season, he started all 12 games, hauled in at least two passes in each contest and claimed second-team All C-USA and All-Louisiana recognition after posting 56 receptions for 886 yards and 11 scores. He even gave baseball another chance and suited up for the Wave in spring 2002, helping Tulane advance to the NCAA Regionals. Following the season, however, Williams decided to focus on football with an eye on continued improvement on the gridiron and perhaps a professional career.
The progress he made in his first two collegiate football seasons had all signs pointing to a stellar junior campaign and Williams was well on his way to doing so before disaster struck. In the first three games, he had 15 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown and had a 10-reception, 87-yard contest going against East Carolina before fracturing the distal tibia bone in his left leg midway through the fourth quarter. Williams was forced to watch the remainder of the season from the sideline as the Green Wave went on to win the inaugural Hawai'i Bowl.
"Going into my junior year, I felt that I was going to have a 1,500-yard season, but I busted my ankle," Williams said. "I had good guys around me in J.P. Losman and Mewelde Moore, and we were all gelling together. When I went down, it kind of messed everything up. It took a lot of mental preparation to get back to where I left off and getting back to dominating no matter who was in front of me. It took a lot of convincing myself that I still could do it."
While the rehab was arduous and often times painful, Williams decided the injury was just another step of tribulation on his ladder to success and bounced back in the following fall to become just the fifth player in school history to post a 1,000-yard season. That year, he snared 66 passes for 1,006 yards and nine touchdowns and was named first-team All C-USA and All-Louisiana. He concluded his career in 2004 with a 52-catch, 826-yard, 12-touchdown campaign that earned him first-team all-conference and all-state honors as well as fourth-team All-America distinction by CollegeSportsReport.com.
When it was all said and done, Williams completed his career with 215 receptions for 3,207 yards and a school- and league-record 35 touchdowns. His receiving yards both remain second all-time in the league record book and third in the school annals, while his catches are the third most in Tulane history and the fifth-most by a C-USA player. Williams' touchdown total remains a school record and currently sits third in league history.
Williams compiled 12 100-yard receiving games in his career to tie for third all-time, while he ranks sixth among the school's single season leaders for receiving yards with 1,066 in 2003 and his 13 reception against East Carolina in 2001 ranks fourth in TU's single game charts, and his three straight 100-yard games in 2004 ranks second all time. Williams finished his career with eight touchdown receptions of 50 yards or more and 16 catches for 40-plus yards.
After his senior season, Williams was invited to play in both the Senior Bowl and The Villages Gridiron Classic, and was selected by the Tennessee Titans in the fourth round (136th overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft.
"I think Tulane prepared me very well for (the NFL)," Williams said. "I was lucky enough to be coached up by (former Tulane wide receiver coaches) Trooper Taylor and Daryl Mason. Both guys had two different opinions on what a receiver should be. The drills and the knowledge they brought to the game was great. I got to see two different sides. They are both great coaches and they prepared me well."
Williams went on to play three seasons with the Titans (2005-07) and two with the Washington Redskins (2009-10). Along the way, he tallied 92 catches for 1,248 yards and six touchdowns. In 2007, he was Tennessee's top receiver with 55 grabs for 719 yards and four scores before injuries slowed him and ultimately led to his retirement from the game.
"It was great," Williams said of his time in the NFL. "You never know how great it is until you are out there. When those lights come on and you go out there in front of all those fans you are reminded that you are out here competing with the best of the best. You are on that level. Just to be involved with a season in the NFL, that's awesome. Now, I look back, even now I just started watching football again. I couldn't watch it for the longest time. I finally am starting to really embrace the fact that I am retired and it is time to move on."
While questions surrounded him on what his next step would be, the game continues to be a big part of his life. Williams is currently an assistant coach at nearby De La Salle High School, where he oversees the wide receivers. He is married to the former Annabelle Manola of Regina, Saskatchewan, has two children: Aaliyah (4) and Braylon (3), and lives in La Place.
With his lengthy list of accomplishments and his trophy case filled with reminders of glory years on the gridiron, receiving word that he was elected to the Tulane Athletics Hall of Fame is something Williams holds higher than just about everything else.
"It's an awesome feeling," Williams said of getting the call. "Man, just to be amongst that group of people, to be admired as a Hall of Famer, it is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life and share with my kids. It will give them goals - you know, to try to be better than daddy. That's what I love most about it."
The 2013 Tulane Athletics Hall of Fame Class Profiles:
Part I: Belanger Closes Out Tulane Career with Induction into Hall of Fame