BSU defenseman comes from long line of athletes
Monday, October 3, 2011
BSU defenseman comes from long line of athletes
A lot of children dream of growing up and being like their mother or father. For Danielle Williams she had big dreams to chase. Williams’ father, Brian, was a professional football player in the National Football League for the New York Giants. Though Williams did give football a try for a short time as a child she has traded in her dad’s shoulder pads and cleats for ice skates and a hockey stick as she chases her own dreams as a sophomore women’s hockey player for Bemidji State University.

    Brian Williams was drafted in the first round of the 1989 draft by the New York Giants where he played his entire career from 1989-99. Williams’ father won a Super Bowl ring as a center for the Giants in 1991. He was part of a center-quarterback exchange with Giants great Phil Simms.

    “It was always fun growing up to be able to talk to all of the other kids about being on the field at Giants games,” Williams said. “Everyone knew who my Dad was and it was kind of cool when he would come to school and sign autographs for the other kids.”

    Williams split her childhood between New Jersey and Minnesota as the family stayed with Brian during training camp and football season before returning to Minnesota after the season. Since his retirement in 1999, the Williams family has spent all of their time in Waconia, Minn. Brian now spends his time trying to make up for the moments he lost during his 10 years of playing in the NFL.

    “My dad has hung out with us almost every day since he retired from the NFL,” said Williams. “He has been trying to catch up on the time he missed with us when he was playing. He promised he would get us a dog after he retired and we still have that dog. I liked being around the NFL environment but it is nice to have my Dad around all the time now.”

    Danielle’s ties to football run even deeper. In addition, Danielle’s younger brother Maxx, is a high school senior who has committed to play football next season as a tight end at University of Minnesota. Her grandfather, Robert Williams, was also a successful collegiate football player at University of Notre Dame in the late 1950s. He is known for helping the Fighting Irish end the University of Oklahoma’s 47-game win streak in 1957. Robert was also drafted into the NFL by the Chicago Bears but opted to go to medical school instead.

    “Wherever we go as a family, football has always been around us,” Williams said. “You should have seen our house when the Super Bowl was the Giants versus the Patriots a few years ago. One of my dad’s good friends played for the Patriots. You couldn’t even hear anything because our house was so loud. Football has always been a fun family event for us. During the summer we often go into the backyard and play flag football.”

    Despite coming from an athletic family, Williams says her parents were never the type to push their kids toward athletics. In addition to her father being an NFL player, her mother was a collegiate volleyball player at University of Minnesota from 1984-87.

    “Obviously they wanted us to play sports,” Williams said. “You would think with both of my parents having played sports at a high level that they would have pushed us but they were the type that said if you don’t want to go to practice today you don’t have to. Of course that made us want to go even more. My dad never had to force us to go to anything.”

    Dabbling in several sports when she was younger, Williams took up hockey when she was in sixth grade and has been pursuing the sport ever since. She is now entering her sophomore year at Bemidji State where she wears number 59, the number her father wore during his entire career for the Giants. Last season, as a freshman, the versatile player who plays both forward and defense tallied one goal and one assist while appearing in 32 games for the Beavers.

    “Bemidji State feels like home,” Williams said. “Since my parents know that it makes it a lot easier for them to root for BSU when we face the Gophers every year. It also helps that I am playing a sport that neither of my parents played. I think it would have been hard for them to root against Minnesota had my brother chosen to go elsewhere.”

    With three years left at BSU, Danielle Williams will look to make her mark as a Beaver women’s hockey player like several of her family members have in collegiate and professional athletics before her.