Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
In a pre-draft interview with the NFL Network Thursday, Quinnen Williams proudly talked about a glass keepsake his agent had given him to mark what became a life-changing night when the Jets took him with the third overall pick.
Appropriately, the present was focused on the woman whom Williams credits for so much - his mother, Marquischa. She died of breast cancer in 2010 at age 37, when Quinnen Williams was only 12 years old.
NFL Network's cameras showed the gift Williams got from Nicole Lynn, his rep at Lil Wayne's agency, Young Money APAA Sports. It read: "We know you would be here today if Heaven wasn't so far away. Still loved, still missed and very dear. Unseen, unheard, but always near.
"In loving memory of Mrs. Marquischa Williams."
Watch the NFL Draft with FuboTV - 7 Day Free Trial!
"It's much bigger than me," Williams told Deion Sanders about the prospect of getting drafted. "Going through a tragedy, losing my mom, man, it just humbled me and made me into the person I am today."
His mother instilled "discipline, effort and accountability in me," Williams later added. The former Alabama star, who the Jets hope becomes a fixture on their defensive line, has a tattoo on his chest to honor his mother, according to AL.com. It has pink stars and the breast cancer symbol.
Five years before she died, Marquischa Henderson Williams had fought off breast cancer the first time it was discovered, according to a story by NBC Sports Bay Area. When it roared back, she kept her optimism and warmth, traits her son shares, according to Marquischa's mother and Quinnen's grandmother, Yvarta Henderson.
"I don't care what happened in life. Good or bad, she would still be smiling," Henderson told NBC Sports Bay Area. "Quinnen does the same thing. You can't read him sometimes because he's always smiling. He's always happy. That's just him. He's always like that."
After his mother died, Quinnen and his three siblings - Quincy Jr., Giovanni and Ciele - pulled together, along with their father, Quincy, Sr. They split up chores at home; Quinnen cooked.
Video: Vacchiano goes 1-on-1 with Quinnen WilliamsCoping was never easy. Quinnen had been very close to his mom, an elementary school teacher. Sometimes, he even helped her grade her student's work, according to NBC Sports Bay Area.
"It hit Quinnen really hard. I mean, we called him momma's boy," said Quincy Jr., who played linebacker at Murray State and has NFL dreams, too. "I had to make sure he was still good and things like that, because he closed himself off a lot. I had to talk to him a few times [then] and we still talk about it now."
Thursday night, Sanders asked Williams about not going down the wrong path after his mother's death. Sanders wondered: How did you stay right instead of going left?
"The people around me and knowing that my mom wouldn't want me to go left," Williams said. "Just knowing the things she taught me… I will always live by that and be that person, on the field, off the field, millionaire or no millionaire, I'll be that same smiling person."
Throughout his prep career at Wenonah High School in Birmingham, Ala., Williams was known for giving out hugs, according to AL.com. The football coach, Ronald Cheatham, would tease him that he hugs too much.
"I like to make sure everybody feels at home when they're around me because I don't know what they have going on at home," Williams told AL.com during his high school days. "At Wenonah, some players go through stuff at home. I just make sure everybody smiling and having a good time around me.
"If I make sure they have a good time, they don't have to think about what's going on at home when they are out there playing football."
Even as he was dismantling offenses as college football's Outland Trophy winner, Williams would go back to his old high school. He'd talk football or perhaps show off his National Championship ring.
"There's character involved in that, to be that guy setting an example for kids without someone in the home to look up to," Cheatham told NBC Sports Bay Area. "They see him playing on Saturday. If you play at this school, and then you go on to play somewhere like Alabama, the kids know what you're doing. They know how you played. It does make a huge difference when he's walking in the hallway."
Williams wants to be the same kind of influence in his family. His upcoming NFL riches will help, but Williams has more to give than money. He really did learn a lot from his mom.
"I can take care of everybody with what I'm doing now," he told NBC Sports Bay Area. "I don't even mean financially. If they need a back to lean on, I've got them. I'm the anchor of the family. I'm blessed to be in this position, to be able to do that."