Williams '76 inducted into College Football Hall of Fame

by Jennifer Yu | 5/14/07 12:22am

Reggie Wiliams '76 was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
by Courtesy of Reggie Williams / The Dartmouth

However, few know that the Green, the center of Dartmouth, was the inspiration for the Disney World attraction.

It is just one way that Reggie Williams '76, the visionary who oversaw the creation of the sports complex, has applied his Dartmouth experiences to life after Dartmouth.

"[The complex] has more than a passing nostalgic reference to the Dartmouth College campus," said Williams, the Vice President of Disney Sports Attractions.

It was announced on Wednesday, May 9, at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City that Williams, a former three-time first-team All-Ivy selection and a first-team All-American linebacker, is one of 12 players and two coaches who will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2007 in December.

He is the 13th member from the Dartmouth community to be elected to college football's most prestigious shrine.

"It is a tremendous honor to represent Dartmouth and the Ivy League," said Williams, one of Dartmouth's greatest football players who went on to enjoy a 14-year professional football career with the Cincinnati Bengals. He will be the first African-American Ivy-Leaguer to be inducted since the League's founding.

"I have so many wonderful memories from Dartmouth, from our 1973 victory over Harvard that led us to our fifth straight Ivy League championship to a phenomenal study abroad program in Mexico City," he said. "I have so many classmates from my days at Dartmouth that fortunately I am still friends with."

Dartmouth was a place where Williams found his niche. He was one of the founders of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the first African-American fraternity at the College. He won the Ivy League heavyweight wrestling title as a junior and could have defended his title had he not graduated early -- Williams spent only three and a half years at Dartmouth before graduating with a psychology degree.

It was also at Dartmouth where Williams met former Big Green head coach Jake Crouthamel, who switched Williams from a running back to a linebacker, the position where Williams shined.

But Williams is also not unfamiliar with adversity, as challenges have defined his life since birth.

Born with severe hearing loss, the first years of Williams's life were characterized by near silence. While later surgeries and radiation treatments eventually repaired much of his hearing, the early loss impaired Williams's ability to speak normally.

In grade school, Williams's mother Julia enrolled him in The Michigan School for the Deaf to correct his speech problems.

Considered a pariah by his peers in the working-class neighborhood of Flint, Mich., Williams retreated to books as a haven from the bullies. But he eventually picked up football as a sophomore in high school in hopes of receiving greater social acceptance.

Natural ability coupled with hard work turned Williams into a solid high school football player. While local Big Ten schools like the University of Michigan did not express interest in him, Williams qualified for an academic scholarship to Dartmouth.

"Adversity is always the pre-route to opportunities," he said.

By his sophomore season, Williams had become a starter on the football team. By his fourth fall, he had become one of the most accomplished linebackers to step onto Memorial Field. He still holds Dartmouth's record in career unassisted tackles, with 243, and ranks second in total tackles with 370 during his career from 1972 to 1975.

After graduating, Williams was drafted by the Bengals in the third round of the 1976 National Football League draft. His 14-year career included two trips to the Super Bowl before retiring after earning his second championship ring in 1989.

"I never envisioned when I went to Dartmouth that I'd play in the NFL," Williams said.

Williams has plans to visit Hanover in the fall and looks forward to catching a football game during his visit. He has said that he remains a fan of Big Green football.

"I am a big supporter of Buddy Teevens and hope that they can turn the fortunes of our program around," Williams said. "I hope that we continue to strive for as much diversity in the talent pool, because it will not only benefit the football team but the campus at large."

Eleven former players and two coaches join Williams in the 2007 Hall of Fame class. Other inductees include Tom Brahaney, Dave Brown, Jeff Davis, Doug Flutie, Johnnie Johnson, Rex Kern, Ahmad Rashad, Anthony Thompson, Wilson Whitney, Richard Wood, Chris Zorich, former head coach of Central Michigan Herb Dermedi and Penn State head coach Joe Paterno.

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