Although it's difficult today, to see beyond the sorrow
May looking back in memory, comfort you tomorrow.
It began on September 27, 1982, when Rosalind Williams welcomed her only son, Darrent Demarcus Williams, into the world. He was born, raised, and proudly from Fort Worth, Texas, where he played football at O.D. Wyatt High School.
Not looked at by many colleges, his high school counselor convinced her husband to bring Williams to Oklahoma State University.
That urging would pay off.
It didn't take Williams, known affectionately as D-Will, to make a name for himself, becoming a starter half way through his 10-game freshman season. It would be a successful college career, only be plagued by injury during his senior year. But a hard working Fort Worth native wouldn't let that stop him; he had 21 tackles, three pass breakups, and a 53-yard fumble recovery.
As the 56th overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft, Williams officially became part of Bronco Nation, and was destined for greatness. His first professional interception came against the Oakland Raiders that November, leading to a Broncos win 31-17.
Williams' two year career with the Denver Broncos led to 140 tackles, one sack, six interceptions, two interceptions that led to touchdowns, and a grand total of 145 interception yards.
He was destined for greatness.
It was the ride of his life; D-Will was doing exactly what he dreamed of doing. The father of two was a successful professional football player, he spent his rookie signing bonus buying his mother a new car.
Sadly, the dream came to a very sudden ending.
By the time this is done and published, it will officially be two years since Darrent Williams died in the arms of a teammate, when he was shot in the neck on New Year's Day, 2007. The limo he was riding in was sprayed with bullets, allegedly after an argument.
The autopsy report stated that Williams died instantly.
"Losing a fine young man such as Darrent Williams leaves me speechless with sadness," then Broncos Coach Mike Shanahan said in a written statement. "We all know that Darrent was an excellent player, but as a person, he was a first-class young man who brightened every room with his smile, attitude and personality. I cannot express how heartsick I feel at this loss. All of our players and coaches are completely shocked by this terrible tragedy, and my deepest condolences go out to the entire Williams family."
"You never know why God takes somebody," Coach Shanahan went on to say. "but I know one thing—he got somebody very special in Darrent."
"All of us are devastated by this tragedy," Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said in a written statement. "To lose a young player, and more important, a great young man such as Darrent Williams, is incomprehensible. To lose him in such a senseless manner as this is beyond words. My deepest feelings, all my thoughts and prayers, go out to Darrent's mother and family. The entire Broncos' organization shares my grief. Darrent was a wonderful young man, and his passing is a great loss for his family, the Broncos and the city."
Williams wanted to return to his hometown and talk to local kids about the dangers of gang violence.
His death came just days after the Broncos lost 26-23 to the San Fransisco 49ers, ending their season. It also came a month before teammate Damien Nash, also 24, died of a heart condition.
"His heart was so big, he was always giving to those who didn't have," said Rosalind Williams, Darrent's mother. "It didn't even have to be for an agency or a charity. If he knew you didn't have, he'd hand it out of his pocket."
Denver Nuggets stars Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin, who were with Williams the night he died, set up a college fund for his children shortly after the shooting. The NFL Players Association also donated money, as well as money from that year's Super Bowl tickets.
Javon Walker was in the limo with D-Will the night he died. Williams died in his arms.
“And at the time, I was like playing with the music, and I took this hand and I said, “Quit playing man, quit playing.” You know, joking around, and when I did like this (he waves his arm), like lifted him, I had blood all over me. That's when you heard all the shots," Walker told HBO's Real Sports with Bryan Gumbel.
“So I grabbed his neck, and after I grabbed his neck- obviously, he didn't have no words- I had him kind of like close to me, blood was shooting out, I was trying to hold it. All I remember at that point in time, he was just looking up at me. And I was just like, 'I got you “D”, I got you “D”, I got you “D”'”
Walker, who kept the clothes his teammate died on as a reminder of what happened, found it too painful to go to Williams' funeral.
Darrent was buried on January 6, 2007. Family, friends, and fans all attended the emotional ceremony celebrating his amazing, yet tragically short, life.
The Broncos family paid tribute to Williams' the following season, wearing his number on their helmets. Walker even wore his hair in the same style, a "fro-hawk," as Williams' did.
Bronco fans also raised money to put a headstone on D-Will's grave, and created a makeshift memorial in front of Invesco Field at Mile High.
Going one step further, the team backed the Boys and Girls Club of America by founding the Darrent Williams Memorial Teen Center in Denver. In front of the building stands a seven foot tall bronze statue of Williams.
While an arrest of Crips gang member Willie D. Clark was made just days after Williams' murder, it wouldn't be until October 8, 2008 that prayers and wished throughout the Bronco community were answered; along with 38 other charges, ranging from attempted murder to drug charges, Clark was charged with the murder of Darrent Williams.
Being held in prison without bail, Clark was also charged with having illegal contraband- a shank made out of an orange spoon. If convicted, he could lose visiting and phone call privileges, which the gang members calls "not fair to me or my family."
"What I'm saying now today is that I'm innocent and I had nothing to do with nothing these people are talking about."
Despite his death, D-Will will live on. He has a son, Darius, and a daughter, Jaelyn. In his memory was built a teen center in Denver, to help keep kids off the streets- just like what football did for Darrent.
I hope, as the bell tolls midnight and a new year begins, that you take time to remember what was lost on this day, just two years ago.
And, as long as there is the Denver Broncos, there will always be a No. 27 on our team, and forever in our hearts.