During a post-spring practice interview in 2010, sophomore safety Shawn Williams received bad news. After working extremely hard trying to impress recently hired secondary coach Scott Lakatos, Williams' didn't hear what he had expected. Not only did he fail to capture the vacant starting safety position for Georgia University, he wasn't particularly high on the team's depth chart.
"Coach Lakatos told him where he was at that time," head coach Mark Richt said. "It wasn't what (Williams) wanted to hear. He wasn't as high on the depth chart as he wanted to be or maybe thought he could be. He had a choice: He could've moped around or felt sorry for himself, or he could've worked."
Williams' disastrous karma continued with a depressing nose dive.
Later that summer, Williams' family home in Damascus caught fire. After hours of battling the blaze, their home and all of their possessions were lost. Williams' family were forced to move in with his grandmother. It was difficult for everyone. Doing what they could with NCAA rules, a fund raising effort was raised to help his family.
"We got a bunch of help," Williams said. "It really helped us get back to where we needed to be."
Yet Williams, known for compartmentalizing, didn't say much. His best friend Jordan Love, a cornerback for Georgia who later transferred to Towson University after limited playing time, knew better.
"I could tell something was wrong with him, but it was just like a one day thing," Love said.
"The next day, you couldn't really tell anything was wrong with him. But he was definitely down for that one day but then you could tell he was completely changed," Love told RedandBlack.com. "Usually we can tell when each other is mad. We only get upset about something usually for like one day because we're cheering each other up. Just joking around [we'll say], ‘Just get over it. Stop acting like a baby.' We usually get over things real fast."
He needed to.
Through perseverance and hard work, things picked up for Williams. His family moved into a place near the same Damascus location and Williams, taking his coach's advice to heart in the spring, eventually became the starting free safety midway during the season in 2010.
"I just started working harder and harder, and I guess it just paid off," Williams said. "Always knowing what to do, and playing hard, coaches see that."
Years later Williams entered the NFL draft, eventually selected in the third round by the Cincinnati Bengals. Naturally he plans on using his signing bonus for one specific thing that he's had in mind all this time.
Shawn Williams said with his #Bengals signing bonus he wants to help his family w/ a new house. Burned down his sophomore year at Georgia.— Zach Wells (@WellsZach) May 13, 2013
According to projected rookie allocation numbers, Williams will receive a signing bonus of $555,944 when he signs a contract with a total value of $2.7 million.
Possibly becoming a starting NFL safety during his rookie year and giving his family a new home? This is one of those stories that worked out in the end.